After an awful 2012-2013 season, Bacary Sagna has had a revival this season and put in an impressive performance to help Arsenal get out of Selhurst Park with the three points, despite going down to 10 men. Sagna is not only having a bounce back season, but Sagna had a bounce back game after being one of the players at fault for Borussia Dortmund’s winning goal midweek, in the Champions League.
Since Arsenal’s top three wingers, Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, have all missed significant time this season through injury, the Arsenal fullbacks have had to do provide most of the width in the team. Sagna was exposed against Dortmund trying to do the attacking work and was caught up the pitch allowing Lewandowski to be left unmarked and slot home. Against Palace, Sagna was able to balance his defensive duties with the attacking work.
Even in Arsenal’s attack minded system, a fullbacks first job is to defend and Sagna was flawless in his defending.
Sagna was able to contain the Palace threat down the left and made tackles when necessary, winning both of his attempted tackles. He showed off his aerial prowess winning the second most aerial duels on the team (2), and completed three headed clearances. When Arsenal went down to 10 men, they had the advantage of having Sagna in as their right back. Sagna is as good at winning headers as just about any right back, which is strange considering he is only 5’10. With Sagna on, when Palace were lobbing balls forward Sagna, when called upon, had a similar effect, in the air, to a center back.
Sagna did a good job containing the threat down the left and specifically did a good job on super sub Yannick Bolasie. When Bolasie came in the commentator’s, on NBC Sports, were talking about how dangerous he could be and that he was an “X-factor”. Bolasie came in looking confident and took on a defender four times within the first ten minutes of coming on. Of those four attempts, Bolasie was only successful on one of these take ons. After that initial burst, Bolasie only attempted two other take ons and made only two passes. Sagna stopped three of these attempted take ons himself and really frustrated Bolasie allowing him to get only one cross in, from open play.
Sagna Passing and Crossing
As mentioned before, with most of Arsenal’s top wingers missing due to injury the fullbacks have been asked to provide the width. With Arsenal being a team that attacks primarily from the right, Sagna makes a lot of passes and controls play, especially when they are lacking penetration, like they were for large parts of this game. Sagna took the most touches in the team and also completed the second most passes on the team, a strange occurrence even with him being so influential.
Sagna completed more passes than any player, except for the in form Aaron Ramsey, and made more final third entries (12) than any player, other than Ramsey. Arsenal are always a side that will attack more from the right than anywhere else and that only increased after they brought on a true winger, Serge Gnabry, to play down the right. Sagna combined with Gnabry well when he came on and also combined well with Ramsey, those two being the two most common combinations in the team. Sagna did sit in the attacking half for a large part of the game, two thirds of his passes came from the attacking half, but against a team like Palace is not surprising.
One thing that has dropped off for Sagna and has not really come back yet is his crossing. Last season, Sagna completed only 17 of his 106 attempted crosses (16%) but what was even worse is so many of his crosses failed to beat the first man or were just nowhere near anyone. For the first time in a while, Sagna really put in good crosses sometimes on people’s heads but if not at least putting them in dangerous areas. Sagna did create one fantastic chance where he put a cross in at the near post and Giroud met it in front of the near post but was unable to put it away. While he did not get an assist, it was a good cross in a dangerous area and he did it more than once. Sagna tied with Ozil and Ramsey with most chances created (2) and was one of three players to create a clear cut chance in that game. If Sagna can keep up this crossing than that is another outlet Arsenal have to feed Giroud in the middle.
Keep Consistent and Sign Da Ting?
Sagna has recovered from his poor season last campaign well so far this season. If he can stay consistent, Sagna can push and try to become one of the best right backs in the league again. Sagna is in the last year of his contract and he and Arsenal are yet to reach an agreement. Performances like this one have had Arsenal get the phrase “sign da ting” back out for the first time, for a player since they have also got it out for Wenger but that’s another story, since Theo Walcott’s contract dispute last year. He is a great person to have in the dressing room and is a real tough veteran presence that Arsenal will need to push for silverware this season and just a good guy to have at the club. He put in a warrior like performance and, while Wojciech Szczesny won the man of the match, Sagna was a real leader from the back.