15 February 2013

Bac in Back: The Sagna Saga

Image couresy of The Sun
In an interview with British newspaper The Sun (featuring a photo that accomplishes the impressive feat of somehow making Sagna look weak), Bacary Sagan admitted to a dip in form this year, which comes as little surprise to those who know him--I'm referring not to the dip in form itself but to his admitting to it. He's a forthright man and I admire him for pointing out what had been murmured sotto voce recently. He said: “I’ve not been at my best, I am going to be honest — I am not very happy with myself." He apparently didn't speculate on why, at least in the portions that appear in The Sun, but owning up to it matters. Many of us had speculated that he was sulking as he contemplated other options or was upset at the departure of other long-time teammates like van Persie and Song. It's probably closer to the truth to suggest that a player of his quality who breaks a leg twice is due for a slump. Not that I'm going to dwell on it, but it does make one wonder why we didn't go after another defender during the summer or winter transfer windows. At any rate, he's been on of Arsenal's best players both in skill and in class, whether it was his steady strength against Sunderland, his header against Spurs, or his consistent leadership on the pitch. It's a shame that transfer-talk was bandied about recently,  even considering that such talk is unavoidable when a player of his quality approaches the end of his contract and in the context of other players leaving the club. I'd like to think he's here to stay. Even more than Van Persie, Fabregas, or others, he's one of the faces that comes quickest to mind when I think of Arsenal. I hope they do him right when contract talks come up.

Speaking of others, Sagna also went on to address the departure of certain players, pointing out what I've also asserted, that "we have some diversity [now]. Everyone can score and everyone can be dangerous. It's good for the team." Now, it might just be the old English teacher in me, but his use of the word can grabs my attention. This year, it does feel like anyone can try to score. Last year, there was a  feeling that players had to defer to Van Persie (whether he created this perception or not is another issue). After all, he was a senior member, he was in rare form (finally), and he was in the final year of a contract--all factors that probably contributed to a sense that "we have to keep him happy." Something similar happened to a lesser degree with Walcott this year. Anyway, we are seeing a more diversified attack, both in terms of who scores and in how we try to score. There are times when a team needs an assassin with ice in his veins who demands the ball and will usually hit the winning shot--Michael Jordan comes to mind--but there is also quality in having a number of players who, even if they are less assassin-ish, force a defense to expand more energy on the triage of defending against everyone. Last year, defenses knew that they could key only on Van Persie, even if he did frequently score anyway. This year, defenses have to track everyone, whether it's Walcott, Giroud, Cazorla, Podolski...even Gervinho is a threat, off the radar though he may be thanks to the African Cup (and other reasons, it's true...).

Last thing--it was important and meaningful for Sagna to address Van Persie's departure because of how long the two played together. The man is done and gone, and absent a specific reason to comment on him, such as scoring against us, I hope not to have to mention him again (I already know I'm lying as I plan on one  last bit of analysis on his move in the near future). Sagna's declaration marks, for me, the official "over it" moment. We've sulked and and worn out that mixtape of songs from the Smiths and The Cure for far too long.  We're moving on, and Blackburn is next in the crosshairs.