05 May 2014

Sagna: Man of the Match. Elias, that is...

Careful, Elias. Marriner is reaching into his pocket...
We may have seen the last of Bacary Sagna at the Emirates after today's 1-0 win over West Brom, which brought us to 76 points on the season, a mere 18-goal victory away from overtaking Chelsea for third place (assuming they lose to Cardiff next weekend), but who's to say that's the end of the Sagna-era itself? After all, during a post-match lap of appreciation that offered a bit more drama than the match itself, we saw some feisty play from Elias Sagna, who brushed off Gabriel Arteta before blasting the ball home to score. Not to be outdone, Arteta fils did the same, suggesting that our summer transfer-business might start and end closer to home than was originally thought. More seriously, though, although the sons did outscore the fathers, their fathers did outscore the Baggies, which was the whole point of assembling on the afternoon.

I'll be honest. Sside from Giroud's goal (his third in four appearances) and a brilliant pass from Vermaelen to Podolski that stayed in-bounds thanks only to the extra stiffness of the grass on the sideline, the match itself was a bit dull. West Brom knew that they were all but safe from relegation; with two games to play, they had three points and 18 goals between them and Norwich. We knew that fourth was sewn up and that third is Chelsea's to lose. Somehow, I think they'll find the same kind of defensive mettle that allowed them to stymie the vaunted Norwich attack so thoroughly. Mourinho's a mastermind, after all (did that sound sarcastic? I practiced all evening). More's the pity.

Back to the match itself. With the outcome not mattering a great deal to either club, at least as far as positions were concerned, there just wasn't a whole lot in it. Giroud's goal came from a nifty corner from Cazorla, and that's all she wrote. Podolski rattled the woodwork just a bit, and West Brom had a few chances but nothing serious enough to cast any doubts. On the whole, then, it was a solid if not scintillating weekend. Everton's Tim Howard conceded three, all but handing the Golden Glove to Szczesny, who now needs to keep one more clean sheet in order to surpass Petr Cech on the season. Tottenham lost. Man U lost..at Old Trafford. Heck, Chelsea eked out a draw with Norwich (thereby ensuring that West Brom are as far from relegation as we are from third place).

Archie didn't quite bathe himself in glory to the same degree as Elias...
Even before the match had ended—in fact, for much of the match itself—a good deal of the commentary seemed to focus on what's to happen with Sagna (Bacary, that is) and others ahead of the FA Cup, and whether winning it will encourage Sagna to stay or go. I've maintained for most of the season that this is a squad a season away from truly competing wire to wire, needing just a bit more seasoning, experience, and, yes, depth (read: signings) in order to go chin-to-chin with our rivals. When fit, after all, we held on to first place for the first half of the season. It became all too clear, however, that we're too vulnerable to injuries, and losing certain players to freak-injuries (Diaby, Ox, Walcott...) and others to red-lining (Ramsey, Wilshere, Özil...) was too much to withstand. However, before we wade into a debate over how best to address that, let's remember that we still have some unfinished business ahead of us. Norwich, for one. Hull, for another.

We've won five in a row; let's make it seven and then turn to sorting our our options and needs. Golden Glove. FA Cup. Not quite the double we were imagining for in January, but one worth winning all the same.