Today, the TSF crew shares its opinions about Bacary Sagna. One thing you'll note as we go through this process is the relative similarity of grades of a lot of players we then go through and evaluate slightly more harshly with words than we did with letters. We decided to do a pretty strict A-F grading scale, with no pluses or minuses, so given that it's tricky to accurately letter-grade a player; personally, for me, the grade is an afterthought and the overall evaluation is what I try to focus on.
This is what I wrote about Bacary Sagna after last season:
He had some injury issues this year, so maybe if he stays healthy all next year he'll develop the consistency he needs to take that next step forward and become the truly dominant defender he by rights ought to be.
Well, here we are in summer 2013, and Sagna didn't really take that step. He's a very solid defender, sure, and he has moments of brilliance - like the Sunderland game where he stepped in for the red-carded Carl Jenkinson and played like a beast - but all too often this season he was relatively anonymous, if not terrible.
While I recognize that coming back from two broken legs (!) is a long, arduous process, I am still awaiting that step forward I wanted him to take last season, so he can become the all-conquering player I know he's capable of being - and at 30, the clock is ticking loudly on that. I'm glad he's in the squad, but I want him to be better on a more consistent basis next season.
Bacary Sagna isn't quite the Bacary Sagna we had from 07-10 anymore. A succession of broken legs and age creeping in has slowed his pace a bit, and at times this year, he was too easily beaten by his opponent. I'm not sure he's done as an Arsenal player or anything like that, but there were times this year where I kind of just wanted to throw my shoe at him. On the other hand, he did some very awesome things this year, like filling it at emergency center back against Sunderland and basically heading every clearance away.
At age 30, Sagna's peak time at fullback might be drawing to an end, but if he's willing to stay, I think he can still be a useful piece for Arsenal going forward, but Carl Jenkinson's improvement may start to push him out a little more next year.
Bacary Sagna had his worst season for Arsenal, and it was still better than most right backs. That being said, there were a number of glaring errors in Sagna's game, errors that pointed towards a lack of focus (that whole one-year left on contract thingy), and, perhaps more worrying, a slight, but noticeable loss of pace. That Sagna's best game came at centre back is indicative of that: there, he was able to show the traits that still make him a very good defender, such as his aerial battles, tackling, determination and reading of the game, while his pace, perhaps not as good for a right back, was still excellent for a centre back.
He still had some very good games at right back, and it would be a shame to see Sagna go, because one feels Carl Jenkinson could only grow under his tutelage, rather than being thrust into the limelight. More discipline from Theo Walcott would help too; often, Sagna had an entire flank to cover. His crossing is still as bad as ever, but his passing remains a plus from right back.
The realization that one of your favorite player's career is starting its descent into the fading sky, the warmth of the daylight sun struggling to maintain its previous dominance as it falls away into darkness, is sad in a way. Physically it's the same person but their movements, action and end-result is duller; no longer is the player as crisp and sharp as before. Bacary Sagna, aged 30, showed us that Father Time, with deliberation, is on the wrong side of his career.
While his marking hasn't decreased with vigor, far too often he was misplacing short passes while failing to anticipate his teammates' runs deep in the opposition's half. While he showed at times that he's still able to support Theo Walcott in attack, his best traits are still closing down opponents in space. Arsene Wenger's policy with players over thirty years old has subsided a touch over the last ten seasons but with his contract situation coupled with a promising Carl Jenkinson showing rapid improvement over his short time at the club, it wouldn't shock me to see his departure.
What a weird season. It certainly wasn't his best, and the drop-off from his previous consistent awesomeness worried basically everyone. He made errors he hasn't been prone to making in the past - in particular, his double against Robin van Persie, in passing a ball directly to him then fouling him in the box for a game-tying penalty, stands out as a personal horror.
He wasn't as effective as we're used to, and that hurt. But although he is getting older (he turned 30 in February) and his form dropped this year, he's still very good on balance, and a player worth sticking with if at all possible. Hopefully he will return next season, and another year removed from a double leg break (which, holy crap, he recovered well from that, all things being equal) will help him recover his previously stellar form.