Tag Archives: Micah Richards

Man City's players dropping like flies to avoid the Emirates…

Ahead of Saturday’s visit from Man City, it seems that Citizens left and right are finding excuses to avoid the fray. Usually, players manufacture their injuries to avoid international friendlies; this time through, however, it seems that the mighty Mancs might be suffering a bit of pre-match malaise as player after player has picked up an unfortunate knock or niggle, relegating them to observer’s status, rather than reprise the thumping they absorbed in the Community Shield. As with that match, Citeh may field an XI full of back-benchers, this time by necessity rather than by choice. So it goes…

“Quick, lads! Look like you’ve been a supporter for more than a few years!”

At first, the news trickled in. A few of those back-benchers found their way out of town via loans. Álvaro Negredo made his way back to Spain, getting a loan-deal to Valencia. No bigs, as he was one of those impulse-buys we’ve come to expect from Citeh. Next, however, it was squad-stalwart Micah Richards, the longest-serving (by my reckoning) member, having debuted away to Arsenal way back in October 2005. Despite having racked up 245 appearances in the interim, Richards has joined Serie A’s Fiorentina on a season-long loan. It appears that, rather than face us, he’s abandoned ship.

Casting further back into the past, we have Costel Pantilimon joining Sunderland on a free transfer, where he can learn from no less than Vito Mannone. Further down the pecking order, perhaps, we have Javi Garcia going to the fertile footballing grounds that are found at Zenit-St. Petersburg; Joleon Lescott joining West Brom on a free (!), and Gareth Barry achieving ‘elder-statesman’s’ status at Everton.

And it’s not just the loans. More recently, “injuries” have cropped up. We Gooners know full-well, of course, what it means to lose players to niggles and knocks. It’s part and parcel of who we are. However, as referenced above, even Gooners could look to interlullian injuries as a bit of gamesmanship: “Golly, sir. I know we have a pointless friendly in East Backwaterianton, involving a 12-hour flight with interminable delays and seats that just don’t recline far enough, whose result has no bearing on my position for club or country, but I just can’t shake this soreness in my, um, deviated septum, so…” However, there’s a plethora of such injuries incurred during the interlull that begs questions. Zabaleta suffered something in Argentina’s (eventual) triumph over Germany last week. Kompany almost missed Belgium’s “crucial” friendly against Australia. Jovetić, once-coveted in these very environs,  seems to have strained his hamstring while training with Montenegro. As such, the availability of all three is in doubt.

Even for a squad as deep as Citeh’s, other questions persist. Will Agüero feature? What of Džeko? Neither of them is fully fit. One has to wonder, then, if the injuries that Citeh have suffered are physical or existential in nature. Having glutted themselves on transfers-in and trophies, have they finally reached a point of satiety that will see their squad settle for medicrioty? Why battle, after all, when all of your material needs are met? That’s the thing about wild roller-coaster rides, such as the one that Citeh have enjoyed over the last five years or so. The thrill-seeking is all but gone. What’s left to accomplish (other than a Champions League drive that lasts past the round of 16)?

To their credit, I suppose, none of the former Gunners who have made his way to the Etihad have begged off—so far, Clichy, Nasri, and Sagna have laid low rather than drawing attention to themselves. Then again, the absences of such illustrious teammates will thrust them and others front-and-center. Can they handle the pressure of taking to the pitch to represent a club whose path to success diverges so wildly from the path that Arsenal have taken?

£150,000 a week for Sagna? Sell him!

It’s hard to imagine Arsenal without Bacary Sagna. If nothing else, he’s one of the longest-serving members of the club, having been here since July 2007, an eternity buy today’s mercenary standards. As his contract-talks have stuttered, stalled, and apparently stopped, it’s high-time we look into other options. Chief among them might be none other than Man City’s Micah Richards, who might just find himself sitting third chair behind Zabaleta and Sagna should Sagna’s move to the Etihad go through. With a deal worth £150,000 a week reportedly in the makings, Sagna might have more than one foot out the door. It’s hard to imagine a UEFA-sanctioned club committing that much money to an ageing right-back, but who am I to quibble?

To be clear, I don’t begrudge Bac. Much. This doesn’t feel like a a Cole, van Persie, a Nasri. This is a man who has fought for and stood by this club but is looking ate the horizon of his career, which draws nearer and nearer each day. He’s broken his leg for the club. Twice. Each time, he came back full of the fight that has made him a fan-favorite. To see him ride off into the sunset leaves me with an empty, disappointed feeling, but that’s modern football. He’s played for Arsenal for almost the entirety of his professional career. He’s had the monkey on his back the entire time, a monkey we’ve only just now slain with an FA Cup. For as much as I would like to see Sagna stay, believing him to still possess some hunger for the fray and some wisdom for the feckless, it might just be time to part ways.

His departure, which seems to follow just as inevitably as night follows day, might pave the way for his replacement. Micah Richards, once seen as bright and promising, has only managed five appearances all season for Man City this past season and seven the season before that after having spent much of the previous seven as Man City’s first-choice right-back. If Richard’s tweets are any indication, he’s a big fan of Arsenal, having tweeted after the FA Cup, “Congrats to arsenal for the win today! A club who try to do things the right way! arsene wenger the great!” Whether that’s heart-felt or a cynical appeal for more playing time is for others to assess. In Richards, we see an experienced right-back who may not be as consummate as Sagna but would represent our best bet. Others, such as Aurier, might sound sexier but suffer a bit when it comes to experience, at least in the Prem.

Speaking of experience, I don’t know what Man City would want with a 31 year-old to back up or compete with a 29 year-old. Then again, I’m not Sheikh Mansour, so I don’t have money to burn on such stuff. If Richards wants a move away from the Etihad, why not oblige him? After all, we’d be doing Man City a favor, unloading an unwanted, talented homegrown talent in order to help them make room for an ageing player who increasingly struggles to get back into position after pressing forward and wouldn’t be eligible for Champions League play. More and more, this sounds like a win-win.

Much as I hate to bid adieu to Sagna, there comes a time in most players’ lives when they look for greener grass. If that day has come, then so be it. I wish Sagna nothing but the best. If his departure makes Richards’s arrival easier to achieve. then so be it. Richards’s career and development have hit a crossroads, and a move away from the Etihad might just be what he and Arsenal need. Hm. Among other considerations, such a move might just mark a stemming, if not a reversing, of the transfer-tides…

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So, Sagna's set to sign for City? That's so…

I’ll resist the alliteration and rhyme that the question begged me to answer with. Suffice it to say that the answer ain’t “sitty” but something quite close. Depending on who you believe, Sagna has already agreed terms with with Man City or is still entertaining offers. It’s hard to resist the sinking sensation that Sagna, one way or another, has played his last match at the Emirates, for one, and may have even played his last match for Arsenal, period. That last bit might be more of a bold statement, what with two matches remaining, but if neither the club nor the player are willing to compromise, there’s little left in it but to let him go. If this means we see a third former Gunner at the Etihad, well, so be it.

So much for ‘hatred’, I guess…

Don’t get me wrong. On a sentimental level, it would hurt to see him go. After all, I did just wax nostalgic on the virtues of loyalty and devoting one’s career to one club the other day. I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff, I’ll admit. Sagna’s been with Arsenal longer than most players, save Walcott, Diaby and Rosicky, and has been a bedrock in defense for the duration. To see him go would be a sad day; to see leave him leave on a Bosman to a league-rival would be a slap in the face.

The claim is that he’s unhappy with the terms Arsenal have offered, and that makes sense. He’s been loyal, he’s been dependable, he’s done what he’s been asked. At some level (again, largely sentimental), he has a right to expect some kind of pay-out, which is something I’ve suggested in the past, and our robust financial health might encourage him to believe that we’re capable of rising to those expectations. However, as we’ve learned time and again, sentiment plays a small, small role in these talks. At the risk of sounding callous, if sentiment is supposed to motivate the club to offer a richer payout, shouldn’t sentiment also suggest to Sagan that he sympathize with the club that’s supported him for so long? I’m not asking that Sagna accept a low offer out of loyalty, compassion, or any other touchy-feely factors, but it’s hard to believe that we’re so far apart that he’d leave on a free. Not to City.

While we’re on the subject of feelings, I guess that a move to Man City won’t be the least bit awkward even if Sagna will be there as support and competition for Pablo Zabaleta, a man whose insults “pushed me to the limit”, as Sagna put it, adding that he “felt hatred” towards the Argentinian. Time heals all wounds, I’m sure, but it raises the larger question of why Sagna, by all accounts Arsenal’s first-choice right-back to the point that a loan was considered for Jenkinson, would go to City, where he’d be a back-up to Zabaleta. If the insults Zabaleta aimed at him were enough to inspire hatred deep enough to get sent off, pride might motivate Sagna to consider what he’s signing on for.

Enough of the touchy-feely. Strategically, losing Sagna would be tough, but not as tough as we might worry. Jenkinson and Bellerin are not yet ready for full first-team action, of course, and we’ll need a more-seasoned replacement. However, that was true if less obvious a few weeks ago. At 31, Sagna has shown worrying signs that he’s (a) no longer able to or (b) no longer willing to get forward and track back. Time and time again, he’s been guilty of failing to get back on defense, whether it was a quick counter-attack or even a slower build-up, and we’ve been exposed and conceded goals as a result. On the whole, Sagna has probably prevented more goals than he’s invited in this way, and even if the issue has been willingness rather than ability, it’s starting to sound like he’s less and less willing to put in that effort. If we did convince him to stay, how are we to know that the attitude will change? Staying, after all, would require him at some level to forego at least some of what he’s demanding in pay or length of contract, and that’s likely to erode effort rather than inspire it. We depend on our wide defenders to get forward and get back, and if Sagna’s not committed to (or no longer capable of) doing that, well, it might just be time to part ways anyway.

So why Man City? From Sagna’s point of view, of course, the answer is loud and clear. An increased chance at silverware, not to mention they can afford to pay him just about anything. Kind of. With UEFA ready to sanction the club for violating FFP, they’re going to have to mind their pounds and quid just a bit more. No, the £50m fine is not going to have any impact on their dealings. Sheikh Mansour could probably fumble around in the back of a junk-drawer to scrounge up that amount. The more-serious consideration might come through a Champions League squad-reduction. UEFA is considering reducing City’s squad from 25 to as low as 21 or even 18. That, combined with UEFA’s homegrown players rule, which requires that at least eight eligible players to have trained domestically (not with their current club, just domestically)  for three years between the ages of 15 and 21, could seriously limit Man City’s options in the Champions League. Sagna would be ineligible to play, as would other defenders like Zabaleta, Nastasic, Demichelis, Boyata, Kolarov, and Kompany. In fact, the only defenders in the City squad who would still be eligible would be Lescott and Richards. The homegrown players rule applies to the entire squad, and Man City could find its six other eligible players elsewhere in the roster: Joe Hart. James Milner. Richard Wright. Jack Rodwell. That’s six, meaning Man City would need two more call-ups or signings, and these would have to meet that homegrown players rule.

Heck, while we’re on the subject of unhappy right-backs, does anyone fancy a go at Richards? He’s already unhappy and out of favor, having made only five appearances all season, and he’d have to feel like the arrival of Sagna would cut the number in half, if not more (let’s call it 60% to keep the math clean).

I’d be sad to see Sagna go, whether it’s to City, PSG, Fener, or wherever it is he’d end up. Despite my old-fashioned, soft-in-the-head ideals around loyalty, there’s little we can do to prevent it. If Sunday’s win over West Brom was his swan-song, it at least ends on a high-note, whether it was Bac’s performance or Elias’s goal.

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