Should Arsenal push harder to keep Bacary Sagna?

Ever since arriving in England in 2007 Bacary Sagna has been regarded as one of the top right backs in the Premier League. His consistent play highlighted by inefficiency in central defence. However, over recent years he has suffered two broken legs and this has taken it’s toll on his fitness levels and performance standards. Once the epitome of robotic consistency, he has allowed errors, some of them ghastly, to creep in to his game. Even despite this though, Sagna was the right back in the second best defence in the league. A defensive unit that looks, for the first time in years, to be settled and able to operate to a high standard. Arsenal have a big decision to make on him. He is 30 years old, Arsene Wenger’s traditional cut off age for long term commitment, has suffered two big injuries, has one year left on his contract and is being openly courted by Monaco and PSG which would give him a shop window as he battles to get back in to the French national team.

Sagna recently told French newspaper L’Equipe that a move; ‘is possible. We would have to see in which conditions and, in sporting terms, what they propose. I won’t go just anywhere’. And on his contract impasse with Arsenal; ‘There are talks [with Arsenal], but I still haven’t extended my contract. I am talking, and I am not at a bad club either’. He is clearly torn on what his best option would be. In ‘sporting terms’ his best option would be to stay at Arsenal. He is the first choice, and playing in a settled unit. He knows the system and his team mates.

Bacary Sagna

A move to PSG would be dubious in sporting terms. If Sagna is concerned about winning back his place in the French national team it’s a big risk. PSG have Christophe Jallet, and more importantly Gregory van der Wiel already at the club. If he can oust them then it’s perfect, but if he gets stuck on the bench his World Cup will vanish. A move to Monaco would be solely driven by money at this stage of Sagna’s career. He maybe has two or three years left at the top, and Monaco aren’t going to win the Champions League in the next three years. Again, playing in France would have an appeal to him for both sporting and personal reasons. This could be his last big contract, and he’ll get a bigger one at PSG or Monaco than he will at Arsenal. He’ll also get a longer one than he will at Arsenal.

Sagna will be 31 at the end of his contract next summer and Arsenal would be unlikely to offer much more than a one or two year deal. PSG or Monaco could offer three or even four years if they wanted to. Arsenal have shown some flexibility on this rule compared to previous years, and in Sagna’s case they should do again. There are several reasons that Arsenal should push harder to keep him. They only have Carl Jenkinson at right back other than him, and although Jenkinson has promise, he’s not got the quality of Sagna. Just as pressingly, there is a lack of quality full backs in world football at the moment that are gettable for Arsenal. Their first choice, Lukasz Piszczek is having hip surgery and is out for 6 months. If they at least keep Sagna for this season they can re-evaluate based on his performances and then make a decision on Piszczek or give them time to scout out another right back.

Arsenal have too many other areas of need to have to make themselves another hole by selling Sagna. He clearly wants some security on his contract having suffered two broken legs and if Arsenal aren’t prepared to offer that they should just lose him for free next year unless PSG or Monaco make a huge offer. If Arsenal get an offer they are satisifed with, and feel sure on a replacement, they can sell, but otherwise it just creates a weakness that doesn’t currently exist.

Five players Arsenal should sign this summer

Under Arsene Wenger Arsenal’s transfer policy has ebbed and flowed. When he first arrived he signed players in their early 20’s that he could develop on from where they were. This saw him mould the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires from really good to world class. Next, he began the phase that has seen him maligned, by signing mostly very young players that weren’t ready for immediate deployment in the first team. Although some of those, like Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie came good, the list of those that didn’t is much longer. He has recently stumbled in to a half way house situation where he has grabbed ready-made players to cover to dearth of young quality with much less frequent young signings. He most commonly signs from France and likes the £8-15m price range. With this all in mind, here’s who he should be looking at;

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – St. Etienne

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Scout Report Aubameyang is an able striker who has already scored 16 goals in Ligue 1 this season leading a relatively unfancied Verts to the fringes of the Champions League spots. His main assets are strength, pace and finishing, a heady mix for a striker. He is well-balanced and very direct carrying more than a hint of the only man ahead of him in the goalscoring charts, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Where does he fit? Arsenal have twice previously signed strikers from France but unlike Marouane Chamakh and Olivier Giroud, Aubameyang has already logged one excellent goal scoring season before this one so he has shown consistency. Also unlike those two, he brings an added physical dimension, adding some much needed pace and power to a fairly lightweight Arsenal front line.

How much? St Etienne have already turned down bids in the £10m region for him so it would take at least that, if not £15m which is right on the edge of Wenger’s historical high watermark.

Stefan De Vrij – Feyenoord

Stefan De Vrij

Scout Report
De Vrij is already captain of Feyenoord at just 21. A big, strong and elegant central defender, De Vrij is an elite prospect who has already received caps for the Dutch national side. Comfortable with the ball at his feet and battling in the air, De Vrij is a calm player in the best Dutch traditions of the ball-playing centre half.

Where does he fit? The Arsenal central defence needs a make over. Per Mertesacker just isn’t quick enough to play in England and Thomas Vermaelen has regressed over the last year or so. One criticism regularly levelled at those two is that they don’t seem to be able to tough things out. Well, De Vrij is a tough boy from a tough town and you don’t get made captain of Feyenoord unless you put everything on the line. Arsenal fans would lap that up.

How much? Again, right on Wenger’s spending boundary of about £15m.

Kevin Strootman – PSV Eindhoven

Kevin Strootman

Scout Report Strootman is an imposing all-action central midfielder. He is is 6’1′, strong and very tough. He ranges around the midfield asserting his will onto proceedings. He is comfortable with the ball at his feet but his main strength is a driving force, a dynamo. He is also capable of popping up with goals and assists, totals of which are increasing every year.

Where does he fit? Arsenal haven’t had his like since Vieira and he would bring something very different to the middle of the park. Bullied by no one and capable of standing toe to toe with the likes of Yaya Toure or Sandro, he would add some much needed bite and leadership to the midfield. His presence would free up Jack Wilshere to continue to play further forwards. He is the same sort of age as Vieira was when he arrived from Milan, and that worked out pretty well.

How much? This might depend on PSV winning the title but likely to be in the £15m range again.

Steve Mandanda – Marseille

Steve Mandanda

Scout Report An athletic and agile shot stopping goalkeeper, at 27 he is reaching prime form. One of the best shot stoppers in Europe and is currently in the form of his career having shaken off his reputation for big mistakes. The captain of Marseille, he would bring a vocal presence and passion to win.

Where does he fit? Arsenal need a goalkeeper, because the incumbent Szczęsny just isn’t good enough. He’s shown flashes but no more. Mandanda is a commanding influence from his goal and would not be shy about organising the sometimes shambolic defence.

How much? Around about the magic £15m mark once more.

Dusan Basta – Udinese

Dusan Basta

Scout Report
A ferociously relentless right back, Basta gets up and down his wing with insatiable endeavour. He is strong and quick enough, but his prime asset is his mentality. He really is a never give-in, never stop running type and is also capable of putting in quality crosses.

Where does he fit?
Bacary Sagna is not the player he once was and I’m not convinced Carl Jenkinson ever will be. Basta has that quality that Arsenal fans desire so much; work rate. He would make up for whatever lack of protection he gets further forward with sheer force of will. Arsenal need grit, and Basta would add that in abundance.

How much? Udinese are always willing to make a deal, and a bid of £7-8m would be hard for them to turn down.

Chelsea’s Mata, Man United’s Evans and the undervalued Premier League XI for 2011-12

It is that time of the year when everywhere you look there is a Premiership Best XI or team of the season, but what about all those unsung heroes and subs that have contributed to their team’s success in one way or another? Here is Ninety Minutes Online’s Undervalued XI of 2011-12.

GK: Tim Howard – The former Manchester United shot stopper has been one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the division for some time now. Capable of excellent reflex saves and with a commanding presence, the United States international has lead the Everton defence in conceding just 39 goals all season, which has included keeping 12 clean sheets. Having played every Premier League game this term, the goalkeeper has once more proved invaluable to the Merseyside team.

RB: Bacary Sagna – With the Arsenal defence being inconsistent, this man has been their shining light. Excellent defensively and dangerous going forward, the full-back has come to the fore this season, and is just as effective as Kyle Walker, Micah Richards etc. Another leg break at the tail-end of the campaign is a massive blow for the Gunners, and Arsene Wenger will hope to have the France international fit for the start of next season.

CB: Branislav Ivanovic – With John Terry seemingly in the limelight on a weekly basis, Ivanovic has been there going about his work effectively. Contributing three goals to the cause, including the decider against Napoli in the Champions League, and armed with an array of defensive capabilities, the Serb’s versatility and combativeness has been showcased this term.

CB: Johnny Evans – Evans has been a squad player in recent seasons, but with injury to Nemanja Vidic the centre half has had a run in the team and finally had the chance to show what he is capable of. The Northern Ireland international has played 27 games this year, and has been the subject of praise from Sir Alex Ferguson.

LB: Leighton Baines – Despite Ashley Cole being considered by many as England’s number one left-back, Leighton Baines has had an excellent campaign and will push the Chelsea man for a starting jersey at Euro 2012. With a deadly left foot and excellent delivery, the Toffees defender has been linked with a move to Manchester United this summer.

RM: This position was a hard call, but it is going to Stephane Sessegnon of Sunderland. Assured on the ball and with an eye for goal to match, the attacking midfielder seems destined for bigger things. Ten assists and seven goals for The Black Cats this year has confirmed the attacker’s importance to the Stadium of Light outfit; it remains to be seen whether he will stay or move on to a top six club.

CM: With a mass of players to choose from, the first central midfielder is Moussa Dembele from Fulham. He is quickly becoming integral in the Cottagers’ set up and seems another player with potential for the big time. Martin Jol’s men have had a steady season, and with Dembele providing athleticism, stamina, tackling, and scoring an occasional goal, he really is a lynchpin in the side.

CM: Yohan Cabaye – With Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse hogging the headlines, the strikers’ supply line can be overlooked. Cabaye is a critical member of Alan Pardew’s starting XI, and the talented midfielder drives their possession game. With eight assists and four goals, the France international has been one of the signings of the season.

LM: This position goes to Juan Mata of Chelsea. His countryman David Silva has been phenomenal in Manchester City’s challenge for the title, but Mata at the other end of the country has provided 13 assists and 6 goals in Chelsea’s inconsistent season.

CF: Jermain Defoe – Despite starting on the bench in 20 games this year, Defoe has still contributed vital goals for Spurs. One of England’s deadliest finishers, the diminutive marksman may be looking for a move away from White Hart Lane if he is not assured more than a bit-part role for next term.

CF: Grant Holt – The Norwich City targetman has led the line for the newly-promoted side, scoring 14 goals this year, to keep the Canaries safely up on their return to the Premier League. A potential candidate for Euro 2012; as the second highest scoring Englishman in the top flight behind Wayne Rooney, Holt is sure to be in Roy Hodgson’s thoughts.

There were literally dozens of players to choose from when compiling this team; it was almost impossible to choose. We may be blessed with the Rooney’s, Bale’s, Aguero’s, and Van Persie’s, but the competitive nature of the league means there is a vast array of talent that can at times get overlooked.

By Stephen Reid

Arsenal’s ideal 2012-13 line up: The men Arsene Wenger wants for his starting XI next term

Arsenal have been through something of a rollercoaster season, starting very slowly before a revival has the north London side 90 minutes away from a respectable third place. Ensuring that the Gunners qualify for next term’s Champions League, Arsene Wenger should be able to bring in a number of new faces this summer, which could see the Emirates outfit challenge for the Premier League title in 2012-13. But what is Wenger’s ideal starting XI for next season?

GK – Wojciech Szczesny

The Polish goalkeeper has stepped up to the plate this term, and finally the Emirates faithful have a man between the sticks that they can trust. Wenger will look for Szczesny to continue his development in 2012-13 and become one of the most consistent stoppers in the division. Rumours have linked Swansea’s Michel Vorm with a move to Arsenal, and the north London club will need a backup with Manuel Almunia on his way out of the club.

LB – Thomas Vermaelen

The Belgium international is an important member of the Arsenal set-up, and Wenger will hope to have the vice-captain fit and available for the bulk of next season. With a raft of central defenders, Vermaelen may well end up at left-back, with Andre Santos a solid backup.

RB – Bacary Sagna

Despite the prominence and potential of Kieran Gibbs, Bacary Sagna is the first choice at right-back and is an excellent defender. The France international has recently broken his leg for a second time, and Wenger will be keen to have the 28-year-old back in his starting line-up for the start of next term.

CB – Jan Vertonghen

The Ajax captain is in the last year of his contract with the Eredivisie giants, and is reportedly being chased by Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United. Wenger will hope his side can win the race, as the centre-back would be an excellent addition to any of the leading Premier League sides.

CB – Laurent Koscielny

The French centre half has shown maturity and doggedness this season, and will most likely get the nod over Per Mertesacker if everyone is fit and available.

CM – Jack Wilshere

The Gunners have missed their home-grown hero Wilshere this term, with the England international not kicking a ball in anger all campaign. The Emirates faithful will hope to have their favourite back available for the start of next season, which will be as good as a new signing.

CM – Alex Song

The Cameroon international has been one of the standout performers for the Londoners this season, and is now a majorly important member of the team. Song’s combative nature in the centre of the park is complemented by a surprisingly excellent range of passing and boundless energy.

CM – Yann M’Vila

Wenger’s number one transfer target this summer, M’Vila has been imperious for Rennes this season and forced his way into the France international set-up. A £17 million deal has been touted, but Arsenal must fight off interest from Inter to get their man. If the battler does arrive in England it may limit opportunities for the likes of Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey.

AT – Lukas Podolski

The vastly-experienced Germany international has ended a long-running transfer saga by agreeing a move to north London this summer. Podolski will take some of the goalscoring responsibility away from Robin van Persie, and is a feisty and passionate forward.

AT – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

The young starlet has shown glimpses of brilliance in his debut Premier League season, and will be in line for a regular first-team place next term. Fast, skilful and with an eye for goal, Oxlade-Chamberlain is a star in the making. Wenger will also have Theo Walcott, Gervinho and potentially Clint Dempsey to choice from.

ST – Robin van Persie

The PFA Player of the Year has been unplayable at times this season, and has on occasion single-handedly dragged the side to results. With one year left on his contract, the Netherlands international’s future will have a major bearing on the club’s fortunes next season.

Published – Soccerlens

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