The last 8 years have been depressing for Arsenal fans. From near misses to utter mediocrity the fortunes of the club have fluctuated. It is as if karma is playing it’s part in the fortunes of the club, from the highs of the Invincibles season to being beaten 8-2 at Old Trafford life has surely come a full circle for Arsenal fans. Through it all players have come and players have gone barring the exception of a select few. One such player who has been a shining light in the majority of the trophy drought years has been Bacary Sagna. The right back has carved a niche for himself in that position and has gone on to become one of the most consistent performers in the Arsenal squad if not in the premier league. Though he had a somewhat lackluster last season the player is ready to recapture the form that propelled him into the PFA team of the year on two separate occasions.
Born in Sens, France the young full back started his career at FC Sens before making a move for Auxerre where he started to build his reputation of being a solid Centre Bck. His performances earned him the moniker of Mr Reliable from the fans and he was soon voted into the Ligue 1 team of the year. On the back of such outstanding performances it was only a matter of time before the big clubs came calling. In recent years the French League has served as a sort of feeder league to the English Premier League and sure enough Arsenal came calling in the summer of 2007. Sagna forced the move through and Arsene had his man. Now one must point out that at the time Wenger’s French Revolution at Arsenal was slowly on the decline with major imports like Vieira, Henry etc moving to greener pastures. So it was with some trepidation that Arsenal fans like myself welcomed the Frenchman into the club to fill in the role vacated by the legendary Lauren who had departed the club that summer.
But all our fears were put to rest upon seeing the player in action. Not only was he rock solid at the back but his offensive skills were equally impressive. These included major runs where he would bomb forward and provide cross after cross; a feature that would become a prominent part of his play for years to come. His first season in English football could be described as nothing but outstanding. He had taken to the physical nature of the English game like a duck to water. He formed a very solid backline marshaled by his compatriot William Gallas and for a while it looked as if Arsenal would be storming to the title with a 5 point lead over Manchester United. Then the now infamous Birmingham game took place. Talismanic forward Eduardo suffered a terrible leg break and the game ended in acrimonious fashion with a late Birmingham penalty and Gallas’s self combustion in the middle of the pitch. Things started to unravel on the pitch for Arsenal from that point on and yet Sagna’s performances never faltered. He even scored his first goal in the famous Red and white in a crucial game against Chelsea. His goal gave Arsenal the lead, a lead which they held onto until Sagna was forced off the pitch due to an injury and from then on in Drogba took full advantage to hand Chelsea a come back win.
A quiet player who you seldom see in the tabloids and one who keeps his private life away from prying eyes, Sagna is a refreshing change from the current generation of footballers whose wild partying ways make Page 3 news on almost a daily basis. His down to earth and humble manner have earned him much praise from fans and he remains a firm favourite with the Arsenal faithful. When his brother Omar passed away in 2008 Sagna was scheduled to feature in Arsenal’s crucial knockout game in the Champions League versus the mighty AC Milan at home in the San Siro. The task was daunting enough for Arsenal as no English team have ever beaten Milan on the hallowed grounds of the San Siro. Despite his grief Sagna played the game and Arsenal went on to record a famous win. Such is the devotion of the player to the game that even in the face of adversity he looks it head on and conquers it.
His stellar performances in the 2010-2011 season earned him another personal accolade in the form of a place in the PFA team of the year, the second time he had achieved the honour since his debut season. Last season though the player was pulled up for some ordinary performances especially in the game against United at the Emirates where his ineptitude led to United’s equalizer. Yet despite all this mediocrity there were stellar performances from the Frenchman. In a must win game for Arsenal at the Stadium of Light versus Sunderland the Gunners had taken an early lead only to be reduced to ten men following Jenkinson’s dismissal. Sagna was deployed as an emergency centre back in the game and played an almost flawless game keeping the Black Cats at bay. Wave after wave of Sunderland offense was repelled by Sagna and the defence and ultimately Arsenal came away with the three points, three points that proved to be gold dust at the end of the season. Sagna was singled out for praise by the fans and media alike.
Despite several reports linking Sagna away from Arsenal the player continues to play an integral part in Wenger’s plans. He was deployed again as an emergency centre back in a recent pre season friendly and from interviews he has recently given he seems fully committed to the Arsenal cause to end this trophy drought. At a time when loyalty is rare in the game Sagna’s devotion to Arsenal must be commended. He has undoubtedly been one of the premier league’s best players over the last few seasons and Arsenal fans will hope he recaptures that form again in the coming seasons. With the rise of Carl Jenkinson,Sagna may need to play the role of mentor more than first team regular. The youngster would do well to take tips from the Frenchman and emulate him in every way possible. What one can say with certainty is Sagna will go down in the history books as one of the finest fullbacks to have played for Arsenal Football Club. To paraphrase Commissioner Gordon: He is the hero Arsenal deserves, and the one it needs right now.
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Mean Lean's Response
Great stuff mate,
Bacary Sagna has been top class ever since he rocked up to North London in 2007. Many including myself questioned why we needed a right back when we had a young Emmanuel Eboue who impressed as an attacking right back. Perhaps it was too many defensive lapses meant that Arsene turned his attention to Sagna. I first watched him in the Emirates cup, my first impression was that he did not have the forward thrust and flair of Eboue and it left me a little disappointed. But that was because I hadn't yet witnessed just how good a defender he was.
What stood out for me during his first season was how he settled into the league, country and Arsenal football club without any fluster whatsoever. Lee Dixon and Lauren played in more successful sides but for me without a shadow of a doubt, Bacary Sagna has been the best right back in my Arsenal lifetime. Crossing aside of course, that is the only area of his game that frustrates me but I can more than live with that. Bac had his most inconsistent season last campaign for sure but his standard is set so high that when he played to his usual very high level (which he did very often) we just ignore it as they have become routine since 2007.
I am very interested to see what happens with Sagna this season, he looked like heading out of the door at the end of the season but he looks like sticking around for at least another season. This time he could switch position to centre back. Any pre season injury to Koscielny or Mertesacker and he could start the season. If that was the case, I wouldn't bet against him keeping his place in the team given his huge desire, experience and determination.
Bacary will have to do something drastic for me to not hold this guy in the highest regard once his time is up at Arsenal.