Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Friday January 11 2008
Seldom has a transition into the English Premiership been as seamless as that of Bacary 'Banger` Sagna. History shows that those arriving from foreign shores take time to adapt to the harem scarum nature of English football, particularly those that hop the channel from France. Even genius has taken time to fully reveal itself, as Messrs Henry, Pires and Cantona were plagued by indifferent form in the blossoming of their Premier League careers. One is minded of a line from Fight Club, "for a man`s first fight, his ass is a wad of cookie dough. After a couple of weeks, he`s carved out of wood." But surely Banger arrived with different credentials? The Ligue 1 player of the season for 2006/07. But closer inspection will tell you that past compatriot defenders Pascal Cygan, William Prunier, Laurent Blanc and Mikel Silvestre have arrived to these shores with equitable commendation. Whilst the legendary Marcel Desailly saw his career surrender to the inevitable autumn of his potential in England. Even William Gallas took a little time to simmer to the boil.
So the remarkable initiation of Banger Sagna has been no less a pleasant surprise as an unprecedented revolution. The gusto with which he has taken to the hustle and bustle of the Premiership game, flying into challenges with Laurenesque tenacity, catapulting his distinctive tarantula locks amidst the boots and elbows, has seen the supporters warm quickly to him. However, his quality does not merely lie in his bravery and aggression, but his technical quality has seen him amalgamated into the framework of an Arsenal side based on passing and movement. He is incredibly economical in possession, rarely misplacing a pass or losing the ball in an inane dribble. As is paramount for any of Wenger`s wing heeled full backs, he has the boundless energy to get forward and supplement the attack, where his delivery has been beyond reproach. Pinpoint crosses from the bedreadlocked one have let to vital goals against Wigan Athletic, Aston Villa and a particularly notable assist against Manchester United, where his never say die spirit saw him hook a lost cause back into the six yard box for a Fabregas tap in.
Yet for all of his industry going forward, he is rarely out of position when the opponents forage forwards. Something in particular that he has added to Arsenal`s diminutive backline is some much needed aerial prowess, sensing danger and snuffing out crosses with his salmon like leap. In fact, I must confess that I am mildly surprised that he has yet to find the net from an Arsenal corner. When Sagna was bought in this summer, I cannot have been the only one mildly perplexed. With Eboue and Hoyte looking to be good quality number one and two choices, together with Flamini, Toure, Diarra, Gallas and Djourou all having performed there adequately in the past, I felt the signing was akin to piling sugar onto a bowl of Frosties. Once again, the manager knew better, Wenger was not seeking to plug a gap, but he saw a genuine opportunity to improve on what we had and he took it. Six months down the line and he has to be one of the first names on the team sheet. His sense of seniority confirmed on Wednesday night, when he was sent on to shore up a rattled back four.
Two years ago, with Lauren on the treatment table, Emmanuel Eboue stepped into the breach terrifically, come the Spring journalists and supporters the world over were clamouring to hoist superlatives upon him, his manager even comparing him to the quasi legendary Garrincha. This season, Eboue has appeared rarely in the position, to which there has been a real lack of fanfare, which is compliment to Sagna`s quality and the speed of his transition. At a time when foreign imports are usually just beginning to find their feet, Sagna is considered part of the furniture. A good full back is usually somebody who is ultra consistent, to the point that they are barely noticed. I recall a conversation with a fellow Gooner in a pub at Fulham a couple of years back, in reference to Gilberto he said, "You can tell he`s had a good game when you haven`t noticed him," and I think you can wax similarly lukewarm in reference to a good full back. With Gary Neville`s career sliding into a plethora of injuries, I really believe there is a good case for Sagna being the finest right back in the Premiership right now. Given the early efficacy of his aforementioned compatriots, it really makes Banger`s transition into our team all the more remarkable. Last season, the Arsenal side had all the hallmarks of excellence, but a few anomalies needed to be addressed to lubricate the engine. Of course, Wenger had the answer, it was staring us in the face the whole time. So he sold our star striker and bought a right back.LD
Date:Friday January 11 2008
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