Arsenal face Manchester City at Emirates Stadium in the Premier League on Saturday.
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BAC TO FRONT
Always one of Arsenal's most consistent performers, Bacary Sagna's ability to get forward on the overlap to provide added width on the right is a key part of their attacking strategy. But it is his defensive game that is likely to be tested most when Manchester City visit the Emirates this weekend.
In the reverse fixture at the Etihad in December, Sagna put in fine performance in trying circumstances. With the Gunners chasing the game for long periods, the France international bombed along the right flank in support of Theo Walcott - and with some success. As our heatmap indicates, he spent more time in the City half than his own and hugged the touchline, while also supplying the cross for Per Mertesacker's late consolation goal.
However, despite his forays forward, there was no drop off in Sagna's defensive game. The 31-year-old made one tackle (green triangle on chalkboard), three key interceptions (blue) and six clearances (purple) - including three inside his own area. Not only that, but when he did lose possession, he made seven recoveries (orange) to win the ball back for his side.
It was a balanced, accomplished performance from a consummate performer, and Arsenal will need more of the same - going forward and at the back - on Saturday.
KEY BATTLE - SAGNA v NASRI
Sagna is likely to come up against his France international team-mate Samir Nasri on Saturday, an opponent he will know well from his time at Arsenal.
The former Gunner has been in fine form this season for Manchester City, and seems to be finally back to the level he was at before his departure from Emirates Stadium. Blessed with quick feet, superb vision and an eye for goal, Nasri tends to line up on the left side of the three forwards behind City's central striker, although he often cuts infield to great effect.
In the Premier League alone, Nasri has created 53 chances for team-mates and has five assists to his name. He has also scored four times himself, thus emphasising the size of the task facing Sagna.
The Arsenal right back will enjoy the challenge, and will have a clear advantage with any balls in the air as he has won 66.7 per cent of his aerial duels, while Nasri is yet to win any this term. In addition, Sagna has a tackle success rate of 74.5 per cent this season and has come out on top in 62.2 per cent of his personal duels (compared to the City man's 46.6 per cent).
Nasri is by no means the only attacking threat that Arsenal must counter on Saturday, but if Sagna can nullify his threat it will go a long way towards a positive result.
ARSENAL v MANCHESTER CITY - MATCH FACTS
- Manchester City scored six goals from just seven shots on target when they beat Arsenal 6-3 at the Etihad Stadium last December
- There have been just four goals scored in the last five meetings in all competitions between Arsenal and Man City at the Emirates Stadium
- Victory at the Emirates last season ended a run of 27 league games without a win for Man City away against Arsenal (D8 L19)
- Arsenal have won just three of their last nine Premier League games (W3 D3 L3), this after a run of five successive victories beforehand
- Man City have converted the highest percentage of shots into goals of any team in the Premier League (20 per cent)
- Olivier Giroud has scored five goals in his last three games at the Emirates in all competitions
- Manchester City have kept five consecutive clean sheets in the top-flight for the first time since 1915 and they have never kept six in a row in the top flight
- Yaya Toure has scored 12 goals in his last 15 Premier League games
- Edin Dzeko has scored six goals in his last seven Premier League starts for Manchester City
The matchday programme is now available on the iPad! Find out more here.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 28 Mar 2014