Today, we start the countdown to unveiling our O2 Arsenal.com
Player of the Season. We will be devoting a week of content to each
of the top four as voted by you.
Bacary Sagna leads off our quartet. The right back received
10.03 per cent of the poll which is some achievement in your debut
campaign. Arsenal.com editor Richard Clarke gives his perspective
on the dreadlocked defender.
The impact of Arsenal's foreign legion will never be forgotten. But few of the Club's overseas stars have made the immediate impact of Bacary Sagna. In the past, the likes of Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Petit, Marc Overmars, Robert Pires, Nicolas Anelka, Alex Hleb, Tomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Adebayor have all needed the luxury of weeks or months before settling into the groove of English football. Only really Patrick Vieira drew applause and admiration from the Arsenal supporters on debut.
Then Sagna arrived.
To be honest, right back was not really looking like an area in need of strengthening last summer. Emmanuel Eboue and Justin Hoyte had shared the role quite comfortably in the previous campaign. With Freddie Ljungberg and Thierry Henry leaving, it seemed that the acquisitions would be needed elsewhere. But to re-apply a phrase used about another Arsenal manager - Arsène knows.
From the opening game of the season - the last-gasp comeback against Fulham - Sagna looked like he could add an extra 10 per cent to this Arsenal side. Right back is hardly the most influential position on the pitch but the 25-year-old still caught the eye.
Fast, aggressive and powerful, he bulldozered down the flank when the opportunity arose to attack but was ever mindful of his primary job. These days there is a tendency to judge a full back on his attacking prowess. It is as though the defensive security he can offer is 'a given'. It is not. Yet Sagna can certainly do both.
He was not 'skinned' in any game and his tally of four Premier League assists last season puts him fourth in the list of full backs behind Nicky Shorey, Pascal Chimbonda and Gael Clichy.
But that does not tell the real story. In reality he reached the byline countless times causing persistent consternation. The perfect example came at Manchester City in February. Ten minutes in, Alex Hleb spotted a sprinting Sagna approaching the edge of the area. One touch took him past Michael Ball but there was plenty of work to do. The left back desperately tried to scramble back and Richard Dunne came across to help. However the speed and strength of Sagna meant he reached the byline first and managed to hook the ball back for Emmanuel Adebayor to convert scruffily at the near post.
Tragedy struck the Sagna family late in the season but the only way time you could see its influence on the pitch was when he celebrated the first professional goal of his career against Chelsea. That strike gave Arsenal a crucial lead and Arsène Wenger later admitted the loss of his right back late in that game seemed to unbalance his defence at Stamford Bridge as the home side came back to secure a crucial win.
According to the Premier League players themselves, Arsenal have the best full backs in the country. Clichy and Sagna were both voted on to the PFA Team of the Season.
A casual trawl through website messageboards for thoughts of Sagna brings up phrases like "best Wenger signing for years" and "most consistent performer last season". The fact that the French international only finished fourth in our official Arsenal.com poll would suggest the majority of you don't actually agree with that fully. But few could argue with his contribution.
Considering he occupies arguably the most anonymous position on the pitch, Bacary Sagna has made one hell of a first impression.Sagna Week Date Article 20 June 2008 Sagna Week: Watch Bac at his tough-tackling best 19 June 2008 Sagna Week: Bacary's game of the season 19 June 2008 Sagna Week: What did YOU say about Bacary? 18 June 2008 Sagna Week: We crunch the numbers on his season 18 June 2008 Sagna Week: 'I have surprised myself this season' 17 June 2008 Win a copy of the Season Review DVD! 17 June 2008 'He is wise enough to know when to go forward' 17 June 2008 Sagna Week: TV Online: Sagna's All Time XI 17 June 2008 Sagna Week: TV Online: Sagna's Team-mates 16 June 2008 Sagna Week: Have your say on the defender 16 June 2008 TV Online: Watch the French defender in action 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 16 Jun 2008