After seven good seasons at the Emirates, Bacary Sagna has announced that he will not be renewing his contract at Arsenal. Sagna has told Arsenal officials that he will be searching for greener pastures this summer. In his seven seasons at Arsenal, the 31 year old right-back has proved his worth, being one of Arsene Wenger’s most consistent players. The Frenchman has been one of the better Premier League right-backs since moving from Auxerre.
Sagna says he is yet to decide where he is going to play next season. The strongest rumor is that he will go to the Etihad to play at Manchester City. That is an interesting rumor since City already have a fantastic right-back in Pablo Zabaleta. The Argentinian full-back made the third most appearances of any City player last season and is two years younger than Sagna. With those two players, Manchester City would have two of the best right-backs in the league, but the question is: how do the two compare?
Even in this day and age where full-backs are pushed far up the pitch, the first job is to defend. Both Sagna and Zabaleta won 57% of their ground duels while the Frenchman had the slight edge in tackling, completing 77.6% compared to Zabaleta’s 76.7%. Sagna is one of, if not the best, full-backs in the air. The Arsenal right-back won 68% of his aerial duels, compared to only 47% for the Argentine. The Manchester City stalwart made an interception every 40.5 minutes compared to 54.6 minutes for the soon to be former Arsenal man. Sagna was dribbled past only 14 times compared to 40 for Zabaleta. The most important thing for a defender is they don’t make individual errors that exposes the team. The Arsenal man made only one error while the former Espanyol man made three, but neither of them made errors leading to goals.
In Manuel Pellegrini’s system, the full-backs must get up the pitch to provide width and an extra outlet. Zabaleta has made his living being one of the best attacking full-backs in the world. Sagna, while a great defender, has sometimes struggled with the offensive side of his game. Last season, the 29 year old Argentine created a chance every 91 minutes and a clear cut chance every 280 minutes. Those are both far better than a chance created every 147 minutes and a clear cut chance created every 765 minutes for the Frenchman. The Argentine also racked up six assists compared to only two for Sagna. Zabaleta is a huge part of the Manchester City attack and will be tough to displace.
The two right-backs are very close in terms of defensive prowess. Sagna does have an advantage in that category because of his aerial ability. Zabaleta certainly has the edge in terms of attacking skill between the two though. The current Manchester City defender is probably the better right-back, which raises the question, why pay a rumoured £140,000 a week for what looks to be a back up right-back? That said, if Manchester City sign Sagna they will have two very strong right-backs.