Return of the ‘Bac’

Aside from the obvious, goalkeeping expolits and that of our skipper the performance of one player yesterday and last week stood out for me

Bacary Sagna said: “Cesc is a great player. He was one of our best players but that’s part of football.”

“Every season we start a season and some players leave at the end of it. That’s what happens and I just want to wish him good luck.

“I will miss him of course but Aaron Ramsey did very well and he will show he is a great player as well.”

This was in August after the narrow victory of Udinese.  Bacary Sagna paid tribute to our departed skipper but also took time to praise Aaron Ramsey and talk him up as a replacement in the making.

Now whether we all agree or not about Ramsey we should look deeper, stop and admire the man that Sagna has become. He is always positive when quoted in the media, quick to pay tribute to colleagues and the coaching staff, and diplomatic when speaking on those departing or departed. In short he is a credit to Arsenal Football Club. This was his quote on hearing about Henry’s loan in January:

“It will have an impact on the team and our adversaries,” Sagna told L’Equipe.

“He is always looking for perfection and he knows what to do to win trophies. When he talks, everyone will listen to him. His comeback is the event of 2012!”

We are a team that has been accused of lacking leaders both on and off the pitch, although few can argue that our captain has lead by example this season. However after breaking his leg against Spurs back in October there is no doubt in my mind that that the team missed Sagna’s influence and wining mentality over the 3 months he was sidelined

His maturity and positivity were clearly demonstrated in the week leading up the North London Derby return fixture after the disappointments in Milan and at the Stadium of Light. When interviewed he insisted the squad had the quality to produce the required performance against old enemy.

“We have to keep our heads up, work hard and think about the Premier League because we have a derby next weekend against Tottenham,” 

“We need to do it for us and for the fans as well. We have to react. We can’t play like this against Tottenham otherwise we will lose.

“We have one week to get ready for the game, to question ourselves, to work and to talk to each other.

“We are professional and we have to fight until the end. We have to look forwards. We are fourth in the Premier League and we can’t let it go like this”

His illustrious predecessor Lee Dixon is always articulate and intelligent both on television and in the media generally and I believe Sagna like Dixon is a worthy ambassador for our club off the field and probably a more talented footballer on the pitch.

We are struggling within our present squad for ‘genuine’ world class talent and in reality, whilst we may have a good few in the making, we have 4 players who could walk into any team in Europe. Robin van Persie, Thomas Vermaelen, Jack Wilshire and Sagna himself.

Sagna has been our most consistent player over his first 4 seasons and never falls below 7 out of 10 for me. He played in 132 of the 152 EPL games he could have played in during those for campaigns, which for a tough tackling defender is amazing. He has certainly been our best and most reliable back four member in that time he has surged down the wing and overlapped to provide 19 premier league assists. Trust me averaging close to 5 assist a season is right up there with the best.

If you are not convinced by me, then let’s check out the views of his peers. Twice in his four seasons, 2008 and 2011 Sagna has been voted into the Premier League Team of the Year by his fellow professionals, a feat only matched by Fabregas from our own ranks in that time. Indeed only Evra and Ferdinand amongst defenders can equal 2 selections and only Vidic has 3 appearances.

Is there a better right full back in world football at the moment? (I don’t count Alves here who is hardly a fullback conventional back four.) There certainly is no better right back in the Premier League. At the moment Monsieur Sagna is content at Arsenal but we owe our world class performers more experienced support to blend with our blossoming talent. Wenger and Arsenal have made Sagna a regular international for France. He has played 32 times for Les Bleus all since signing for the Gunners, but the same could be said for Nasri, and it would appear gratitude in his case, extended only so far.

A few weeks back I wrote a piece clearly demonstrating that successful teams in the English top flight have always had significant contributions from their full backs. Until 2 games ago we had only has managed 2 assists from our fullbacks all season, and the chopping and changing of personnel cannot have helped. No coincidence then that being able to name our original season opening back 4 two weeks running has resulted in 2 notable victories and most satisfyingly a goal and 2 assists for the ‘Bac.’ One wonders whether we might be a tad closer to Spurs or beyond that, had Bacary not been missing for the winter.

Such is the class of the man he even took time to praise those who has filled in for him, reserving particular kind words for Yennaris and Coquelin:

“They’re amazing,” he said. “They just play and don’t worry about anything.”

“I was happily surprised with Nico’s performance against Bolton back in October – he closed down really well and imposed himself well.”

“He did an equally good job when he came on against Manchester United, and I’m very pleased for him – he’s a hard worker and deserves a lot of credit.”

“It’s the same with Francis, he’s a midfield player first of all but he’s given his best at right-back and we know that he’s very good technically too.”

For such youngsters such words from a senior colleague will undoubtedly have a profoundly positive effect at the early stages of their breakthrough into the 1st team squad and are to his credit.  I am not sure if he has reserved similar kind words for Matthieu Debuchy, the Lille right back who currently has his ‘Les Bleus’ shirt, but somehow I sense we will see Sagna rampaging down the right flank against England come June.

I believe that like RVP, Sagna wants to repay Wenger and Arsenal but Wenger must reward this loyalty and faith with some quality additions this summer. A world class performer and a model professional deserves medals but please let us ensure they come to him whilst he is still in our red and white. Our ‘Gentleman’ fullback is 29 now and will be 31 when his present contract ends, which in the past would mean this deal, would be the last as Wenger only offered one year extensions for players over 30. However we now have a significant new precedent now as Arteta was offered a 4 year contract in his 30th year. With all the talk being about new contracts for RVP and Theo I would suggest we offer Sagna at least a one year extension and a pay rise to ensure the Frenchman finished his top level career in North London. I for one feel slightly uneasy that Theo is already on £10k more a week than Bacary who is on £60k and seems to be demanding more. This particular observer thinks that our genuine world level performers should be on world class money and those who are yet to attain that level should wait until they prove themselves consistently. Bacary Sagna is truly a world class performer and has nothing to prove to Wenger, Laurent Blanc or any Arsenal fan so please offer him an improved contract now as you already have for Vermaelen. Please don’t run the risk of taking him for granted as his quality on and of the pitch for our great club deserves more.

 Until next time thanks for reading.

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