By Walter Broeckx
In the next article about our players from last season and my expectations for them I will talk about Mr. Right Back himself, the one and only Bacary Sagna.
From the first time I ever saw him in an Arsenal shirt he stood out. I first and for all was impressed by his hair to be honest. Well I was for a few seconds because when he started playing he impressed me even more.
Named in a few PL teams of the season since his arrival at right back and this is saying it all. He probably is the best right back in the PL when he is fit. Ok, did I just say something wrong? Because that is where it all went wrong in the last season.
In the seasons before I cannot really remember him being out with an injury that much. We had the occasional bruise and bump of course but for most of the time he was fit. Most of the time being involved in around 34-35 games in a season in the PL is not bad. I also remember him being banned with a red card last season so he was rather fit one could say. Despite some attempts to kick him off the field in the last seasons. Some assaults from Birmingham that first went unpunished by the referees and that led to Bacary being so tempered about it he confronted a City player in the next game and got send off.
Because in general Sagna is not a really violent character or player. Of course he will make fouls and get some cards but he is not the one that comes sliding in from behind cutting strikers down with a knife.
Since his arrival he has impressed most and for all with his runs down the flank to support the attack. He has a great stamina and he just goes up and down and up and down without seemingly getting tired. When on the pitch he just works, does his best and does his thing in a quiet way. No talk from him about “being the best” and other stuff begging himself up. Just the soldier that you want to have next to you when the war starts. He will do his job.
But suddenly it all went wrong this season. Opinion is still divided but I don’t think Esou-Ekoto wanted to injure him when he jumped against him in the air. Sagna came down outside the grass area of the pitch and landed badly on his leg. Yes it was a foul but I don’t think anyone could predict that this foul would get him injured that bad. A broken leg that had to be operated is a risky thing. Speaking of my own experience…it ended my career. So it was a big surprise to see him already back in February to be honest.
And what a way to come back. I think he made himself half a legend when after the 5-2 against Tottenham he explained what went through his and the others players their head when they went 0-2 down. “Not at our home, not against Tottenham, not against the enemy.” And so he was the player that turned our season completely. It was his goal that not only changed our game that day but it brought a new fire and believe to the team. It was a message that said: no retreat, no surrender.
During his absence we were unlucky to see his natural replacement Carl Jenkinson also getting an injury. Leaving us with Coquelin who also got injured and at the end we almost had to get a supporter from the stands to fill in at right back. We surely realised how important Le Bac was and is for our team. I think no man more relieved than Theo when he finally saw Bacary back behind him on the field to join him in attack and to cover in when we needed to defend.
His second leg break was a result of the first one. Times have changed of course but when I heard after his second broken leg that Bacary was playing with a metal plate in his leg I really was very surprised. I had a metal plate in my leg for a while and when I had it in, I couldn’t kick a ball. So maybe the metal plates have changed but for me it made my bone too stiff and it couldn’t bend. And believe me a bone can bend and needs to bend a bit when you play football. But he did and how. He was back at his best until that fatal day against Norwich.
Again divided opinions about the intent from the player. I can only tell you that the reason why refs give red cards in my country when a player steps on another player his leg when he is lying on the ground is because it is dangerous and painful. Maybe he just wanted to “let him feel he was there” by stepping on his leg, but if you are a real professional and wise player it is a thing you don’t do. Intent or not, you don’t do it.
The final result for Bacary was dreadful. Another broken leg, another operation and missing the final Arsenal games and for him personal maybe the worst part: missing the Euro 2012. And with him nearing 30 next season this might have been his last chance for a big tournament. And all this from a player who didn’t pull his feet out when there was no need to plant it there.
Before and in between Bacary had a great season. He was as reliable as a right back can be. Strong in attack and defence, hard working as ever. Even scoring a goal. Like I said a very important goal.
What will we expect from him next season? Well this is a very tricky one. Breaking a leg once can happen. Breaking a leg twice is not a good thing. Will he completely recover? I surely hope so. I just like Bacary as he seems to be also a very nice person outside the football field, a loving father and husband of a very down to earth wife.
If he can recover I hope we will still see the Bacary from before the double leg break. But as he is getting older we have to keep in mind that this might spell the beginning of the end for him. I would hate it because I feel he still would have had a few good years for us without his injuries. I sure hope that the players who have to replace him like Jenkinson stay fit themselves. Because missing Le Bac last season (and his backups at the same time) was a very difficult thing to recover from.
But as I am an optimistic person I just hope that we will see Bacary running on his flank again in no time. Showing the world and the PL that since his arrival at Arsenal there has been no better right back in the PL. Come on Bac, come back and show us you can.
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