I know it's not from yesterday, but it illustrates the point. - Laurence Griffiths
I know, I know. We're all a little surprised too!
Somewhere in the mists of December and January, Bacary Sagna started to get beat more than he used to. Everyone started to assume that not only was he simply out of form, but that he was also doomed as far as being an Arsenal right back. Cries of "Carl Jenkinson is surely better and deserves to start" rang out amongst sections of the Arsenal blogosphere/internetosphere (which hopefully those quieted down a bit yesterday), and many thought that Sagna might be done as an Arsenal employee come the summer.
To borrow an old cliche: rumors of Sagna's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Turns out he just needed to play center half (this is also probably an exaggeration).
Originally slated to start at right back against the Black Cats yesterday, when Laurent Koscielny failed his late fitness test, Arsene Wenger informed Sagna he would move inside next to Per Mertesacker 15 minutes before kickoff. 15 minutes to get ready to face off against Stephen Fletcher, and then Danny Graham. 15 minutes to figure out where he was supposed to stand. 15 minutes also for Per to adjust to playing on the left side. Given Sagna's recent form, it seemed a recipe for disaster.
It was, instead, a recipe for dominance, as EPL Index pointed out:
The statistics from the EPLindex back it up. Sagna made 15 of Arsenal’s 49 clearances. He won 100 percent of his tackles and competed for 10 aerial duels, winning 60 percent. By comparison, his giant centre-back partner Per Mertesacker competed in just one.
That's, uh, a pretty solid game for a Premier League central defender who plays regularly, much less a right back pressed into late service. Considering that Arsenal also went down to ten men in the 65th minute or so, and the load on Sagna only increased as Aaron Ramsey slid solidly into right back, his performance gets even more impressive.
The question naturally arises: does this point the way forward for Bacary Sagna's career? There is every indication that a main asset for a right back, speed, is disappearing from Sagna's legs as he is four days from his 30th year. However, other facets of his game remain: he is one of Arsenal's best headers of the ball, he is strong, and he is 100% committed to tackles. He is still fast by center half standards. While Jenkinson still has a way to go to match Sagna's overall game historically at right back, the idea that he could play there while the latter slots in at CB in the future for Arsenal isn't super far-fetched, perhaps, unless yesterday was purely a one-off. What do you all reckon?
At any rate, despite many worthy candidates (Wojciech Szczesny, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla) from yesterday's match, congratulations, Bacary Sagna, for being named The Short Fuse Mikel Arteta Memorial Man of the Match!