Happy Saturday, all, as we look to our first weekend without any matches of our own until the 13th against Bayern. There aren’t even any matches of other significance today, as Man City’s match is also postponed, meaning we’ll have to wait until Sunday night’s match between Liverpool and Spurs before anything momentous can happen. I don’t know if I’m ready to actually root for Liverpool, but they do wear red and will be playing against Spurs. It’s a poor facsimile for the real thing, but it will have to suffice for now. Liverpool went down 2-1 back in November at White Hart Lane with Bale scoring twice, once an own-goal, even though Liverpool held possession 65% of the game (and this stat may have been inflated due to Spurs scoring twice in side of the first 20 minutes and then sitting back). Meh. In other news, it appears that Luis Suarez has earned himself a pay-raise, perhaps doubling his weekly wage to something close to the £100,000 range. In related news, Spurs seem set to do something similar for Bale, doubling him from £75,000 to something more like £150,000 which goes to show that having a striker who can win games single-handedly still need not cost £250,000. Both of these men had been linked with summer moves, which I of course encourage, but these reports might put those moves out to pasture.
I’ve been circling it to this point, but these issues–wages, value, form–draw me irresistibly to Bacary Sagna.
As I’ve previously discussed, Sagna has long been among my favorite Gunners. He is one of the few who
exudes any drop of the intensity and steel Arsenal sometimes lack, leaving us to seem a little too wan and aesthetic–wimpy, in fact. Much of this derives from a certain Gallic tint that Monsieur Wenger has fostered by bringing in so many French and francophone players over the years–including Sagna, which is ironic. Over the last few years, he’s been one of the few whose passion registers, such as with his emphatic header against Spurs last year. It’s been distressing, therefore, to see his form drip as it has, although I challenge anyone to break a leg twice and come back to anything resembling the speed, strength, or confidence they had before. Heck, I sprained my knee in October 2012 and still can’t run as I did, and I’m still nervous to kick a ball. I digress.
Similarly disconcerting is that he’s thirty and his contract ends next year, two factors that agitate against each other. On the first, a player of his age usually does seem form begin to dip. On the second, a player seeking a new contract should find greater motivation to excel in order to earn a raise (re: Suarez, Bale). However, this hasn’t happened, and for reasons that pertain to Sagna and for reasons beyond his control. Beyond his control? Injuries. Broken legs and tweaked knees take time to heal, and the psychological hurdle only grows each time there’s a new niggle. Age, obviously, is beyond his control. Within his control? Attitude. Sagna was harsh (if on-target) with his criticism of the club following the departures of Song and Van Persie. Players have to walk a fine line between diplomacy and saying how they feel, and Sagna stumbled there. Continuing with attitude, there have been concerns about his approach to training. Still, feeling undervalued, whether he’s correct in feeling this, has a way of eroding one’s effort even when sager heads advice the opposite approach. I’m sure we’ve all slagged a job when we felt disrespected or underpaid, not that being underpaid to play some joga is anything at all like being underpaid to actually work. I find it hard to believe that anyone would seriously be upset about their wages for playing a game. Then again, it’s never happened to me, so I guess I just don’t know.
Enough about me. Back to Sagna. Notice that I haven’t yet addressed a factor that some have attributed to others, as in beyond his control, and that’ s being left out by Walcott’s desire to drift more to the center and failing to track back to support Sagna. I understand this line of thinking, but it leaves out a salient issue: as previously pointed out, Sagna is thirty. For all of his potential, Walcott is a young upstart. Arguably, some of Walcott’s success from the wing is due to Sagna’s consistency and form in back, liberating Walcott to wade into the middle. However, as Sagna’s speed and form have dipped, he does find himself getting caught out and needing more help from Walcott. Defense, after all, is not reserved solely for the four whose position includes the word “defender”. If Sagna feels that Walcott has left him out to dry on too many occasions, he should be taking the youth to task and letting Walcott know in no uncertain terms what is expected from him. If he doesn’t do this, it shows a rather-disappointing lack of leadership from one of our longest-serving members of the starting XI.
I don’t know if that length of service affords Sagna much leeway in his future contract talks, unfortunately. I would love to see him finish out with Arsenal, even if this means he moves to center-back (displacing who? Mertesacker? Vermaelen? I don’t know…) in the short term and to the bench, coming on in the second half or for certain match-ups. Jenkinson shows some potential, and if Sagna can be convinced of the value of mentoring the lad, he might be more willing to accept a lesser on-field role.