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Sagna and Fabianski Reject New Deals: Thoughts on their Futures with the Club

Lukasz Fabianski and Bacary Sagna are poised to leave Arsenal

The exodus from Arsenal continues

Arsenal has been renowned in recent times as a “selling club” following the high-profile departures of key players in recent seasons. Unlike a club like Atletico Madrid that replaces a high-profile departure with an equally exciting new signing, Arsenal usually replaces their stars with cheaper options that won’t match the player that left for greener pastures.

For instance, Arsenal lost two creative talents in the forms of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in the same summer but the manager chose to favor an Aaron Ramsey that wasn’t ready at point in time, so he struggled for fitness and form. More recently, the Gunners lost a perpetual goalscoring machine of the first kind, Robin van Persie, and replaced him with Olivier Giroud, a forward that combines his purple patch of good form with goal droughts.

This summer, it looked as if the Gunners finally got it right in the transfer window, as the club was a deadwood-disposal campaign which saw the likes of Gervinho and Vito Mannone leave for meager amounts while Andre Santos, Denilson, Andrey Arshavin, Seb Squillaci and Marouane Chamakh left for nothing. The Gunners went on to sign a progidal son, Mathieu Flamini, and a world-class talent in Mesut Ozil, which gave everyone a lift.

Since then, Arsenal has mounted an impressive Premier League campaign (currently in second place), awaiting a FA Cup fifth round clash at home to Liverpool and they have a double date with the European champions, Bayern Munich.

Just when we thought we were having a bad start to the week after the decimation at Anfield, the Daily Star has reported that the club’s most consistent fullback, Bacary Sagna, and reserve goalie, Lukasz Fabianski, have rejected new deals with the club and are set to leave on a Bosman this summer.

According to the Daily Star, Fabianski said,

 “I want to be No.1 in the club and in the Polish national team. I have learned a lot at London during very positive and challenging periods. With biggest respect to this great club, I didn’t accept the extension offer as I am looking forward to a new challenge in England or abroad.”

Since his arrival as Manuel Almunia’s deputy in 2007, Fabianski has made just 71 appearances and has kept 22 clean sheets. That’s an average of just 10 games per season and for a young keeper in need of consistent game time, that’s not good enough. His cause isn’t also helped by the fact that he’s been benched by his Polish compatriot, Wojciech Szczesny, and with Artur Boruc doing well in Southampton, Fabianski is unlikely to add to his 21 caps for Poland.

Fabianski’s save of life against Wolves in 2010

The Polish goalie has expressed his dissatisfaction over lack of game time in the past and there was a time when he instructed his agent to find him a new club. Lukasz Fabianski arrived at Arsenal on the back of two Polish League Goalkeeper of the Year awards for 2005 and 2006 but he was a deputy for Manuel Almunia. Wenger offered the Pole a chance in the Cup competitions but he continued to push hard for a first team place.

It was fabled that Fabianski kept like a goalie with eyes behind his back on the training ground but he couldn’t replicate that form on the pitch. When I think of his top-notch calamitous moment against Porto in February 2010, I always give myself a few fits of laughter but Fabianski matured as a player in the 2010/11 campaign. Manuel Almunia let complacency creep into his game and Fabianski came in his stead and grabbed the bull by its horns and its balls.

Goalkeepers' Union: Szczesny congratulates Lukasz Fabianski at the end of the 2-0 win at Swansea on Saturday

Fabianski benched Szczesny, albeit temporarily, at some point last season

There were times when Fabianski would have had the chance to make the No. 1 jersey his, but he has had some bad luck with injuries. After usurping Almunia in the 2010/11 campaign, Fabianski played consistently and put up some great performances notably against Everton (away) and Wolves (away). However, a shoulder injury paved the way for Szczesny to make his Premier League debut. Last season, Wenger reinstated Fabianski ahead of Szczesny in the crucial encounter against Bayern Munich and he kept his place against Swansea recording two clean sheets in a row. Unfortunately, a rib injury suffered in the game against Norwich cost the Pole his place.

There are not many second-choice goalies that are as good as Fabianski and with his heart made up with an imminent departure, I wish him all the very best. I hope he moves to a Premier League mid-table side so that at least, I can get to watch him on a consistent basis, and when he comes to the Emirates, his songs will be in full voice.

****

I’ve shared my thoughts about Bacary Sagna’s future and I won’t drawn into making more words on it but all I can say is that losing a player like Sagna would be disastrous, but if the club can replace him with quality players like Lukasz Piszczesk, Seamus Coleman, Sebastien Corchia or some random bloke from outer space, the blow would be softened. I don’t believe that Carl Jenkinson has what it takes to replace Sagna yet but he’ll get there soon.

Jenkinson v Sagna

According to the Daily Star, Sagna is upset that Arsene Wenger and Arsenal did not approach him sooner about a new deal, leaving talks until his final year at the club – in sharp contrast to their approach to other stars. Arsenal wants Sagna to sign a contract extension with the same amount of £60,000 a week but the defender feels that he deserves more.

For a player that has served this club with all dedication even to the extent of breaking his leg twice, it would be a shame if Arsenal loses Sagna because of a few extra pounds. Teams like Galatasaray, Paris St. Germain and AS Monaco will be willing to break bank for Sagna and for the fact that we haven’t heard any info about them signing a pre-contract with the fullback, it means that he still wants to stay but he believes that he has earned a pay rise.

Sagna would be 31 on Friday and this protracted saga would continue till the end of the season. However, it doesn’t look as if it’s affecting his game, even though he and the rest of his teammates had an off day in Anfield.

I’ll keep you updated as the situation unfolds.

Sayonara.

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Bacary Sagna: Latest Updates on the Defender’s Contract Situation

Sagna: Are you staying or going?

Bacary Sagna has been at Arsenal for as long as I can remember.

At the age of 30 (turning 31 next week), he is regarded as one of the senior players in the squad and he has been through a lot in his seven-year stint with the club. Arriving in the Premier League with a relatively unknown status, the Frenchman worked his way up the food chain in his debut campaign in England, endearing himself into Arsenal hearts and winning a place in the 2008 PFA Team of the Year.

From that moment he set the tone for what has been one hell of a career in North London.

Despite making up a lot of distance further up the pitch to support his attacking winger on a consistent basis whilst performing his defensive duties admirably, Sagna continued to maintain amazing fitness levels and the number of appearances he made in his first four seasons were staggering, in contrast to his recent injury-plagued campaigns.

In his time at Arsenal, the fans have become accustomed to his eccentric hairstyle, his beautiful Ludivine, his optimal fitness levels, amazing work rate, his influence on Carl Jenkinson and most importantly, his unrivaled consistency that has been put in question in recent times. Suffering two broken legs definitely took a toll on Sagna’s fitness and form, but he myst be lauded for trying to come back stronger.

For the first time in a long while, the Gunners managed to keep their key players while getting rid of their deadwood, and they have mounted a remarkable Premier League campaign, leading the log table with 14 games to go. They have also advanced to the fifth round of the FA Cup and they have a tasty clash against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

In recent times, Arsenal has had a mass exodus of players that have left for greener pastures. The departures of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasir, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy and most recently, Robin van Persie, didn’t go down well with the Emirates faithful. When it seemed as if Theo Walcott was going to join the trend, he made a U-turn and signed a long-term deal that would keep him in the club for years to come.

However, it seems as if Bacary Sagna is going to join the trend but plans are in place to retain his services for the long term. Arsenal are set to offer Bacary Sagna a two-year contract extension worth £70,000 per week, but the French right-back is looking for an extra 12 months on top. According to the Mirror, the Frenchman’s future remains in doubt,

“Bacary Sagna is having a fresh round of contract talks as Arsenal make a last-ditch bid to persuade him to remain a Gunner.

Sagna, who turns 31 next week, wants a three-year deal to stay with the league leaders, and so far talks have been deadlocked.”

With the full back linked with big-money moves to AS Monaco, Paris St. Germain, Galatasaray and most recently, Al Alhi of the United Arab Emirates, Sagna will have a big decision to make on the next step in his career this summer. Unlike Robert Lewandowski, Sagna hasn’t signed a pre-contract with any club, so his future still remains on the balance.

According to stats king, WhoScored.com, Sagna has made 26 appearances this season and he averages 1.6 tackles each match, 1.4 interceptions and 0.6 fouls, notching up three yellow cards. He has also registered a goal as well as three assists this season.

With Per Mertesacker gearing himself to sign a new deal, it would be sad seeing a stalwart like Sagna leave on a free transfer. Sagna has been a vital part of the Arsenal defense that has kept 11 clean sheets in the Premier League. Sagna has amassed 265 appearances for the club and I can only hope that he would be able to add to this tally next season but should he decide to seek greener pastures elsewhere, I won’t shed a tear because Arsenal is like the Greek mythical creature, Hydra.

If you take one head out, another pops up.

Sayonara.

The Curious Case of Arsenal’s Defense: Retain Sagna and Give Vermaelen Game Time

Despite the fact that some personnel in Arsenal’s attack are taking all the plaudits for their recent outstanding performances thus far, it’s high time we have a detailed look of some of the headlines dominating at the defense. Gooner Daily welcomes guest writer, O. Valentine, an avid Arsenal fan, as he shares his thoughts on the current situations surrounding Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen…

In recent weeks, the rumor mills and gossip wheels in the red sphere of North London have been spilling salivating transfer possibilities that have invariably kept Arsenal enthusiasts busy.

In the wake of Arsenal’s spectacular run of form, the insatiability seems obvious amongst pundits and fans alike that have largely opined that the team still exudes some void and that only prompt reinforcement – from the winter transfer market of course – would salvage the quest to end the eight years trophy drought by May.

While everyone would categorically applaud the unforeseen arrival of Mesut Ozil which has further harmonized the sturdiness and competitiveness of the team, the attack and defense – especially the center- and right back positions are not yet to magnet such encomium.

Evidently, the defensive partnership of the regular back four which consists of Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna have been firing on all cylinders. The telepathy between Koscielny and Mertesacker is a damn pleasurable sight and the full backs balance their defensive and offensive plays superbly.

However, there have been signs of unsettledness surrounding Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen as the former is yet to put pen to paper on a new deal while the latter has been frozen out of first-team action.

An iconic moment in Sagna’s Arsenal career

Now every Tom, Dick and Harry in the media are crisscrossing the Premier League, Ligue 1, Serie A, Bundasliga and La Liga, giving Wenger some wild and weird ideas by unearthing random possible replacements for the CB and RB position in the event of Sagna and Vermaelen’s departure.

Bacary Sagna is one of the club’s loyal stalwarts besides Tomas Rosicky, Nicklas Bendtner and returnee Mathieu Flamini. His Arsenal career – spanning from when he joined from AJ Auxerre 2007 is currently reaching its twilight and by winter he’s permitted to speak to new suitors.

Sagna has shown great commitment to the club over the years and his performances on the pitch have always been downright consistent. His mobility, agility, running down the flanks and covering for the wingers are worth commending and he has good technical abilities: cutting the ball at the touch line, sending crosses into the 18 yard and his often clean tackles.

Furthermore, his versatility on the pitch is unquestionable and has been working wonders for the team. He’s a typical Gunner and having stayed through the years, he clearly understands the philosophy and tenets that guides the club. He’s grown to become a valuable asset to the team and the Arsenal hierarchy must do everything in their power to retain his services.

Yes, he’s above the 30-year-old threshold but in my honest opinion, Carl Jenkinson has not garnered enough maturity and tactical judgment to take over the wheels completely. He’s a good player with a lot of potential but his rawness and naivety has been exposed countless times. He also needs to work hard on his distribution and positional awareness as he has proved that he’s susceptible to errors, which is rather understandable for a player his age.

Jenkinson struggled against Sunderland last season and got sent off

The good thing about the lad is that he’s willing to work hard to improve himself and he’s a Gooner by heart so he will have the backing of the fans for years to come. Arsene Wenger has done well to deputize him in games when Sagna has missed through injuries as well as lowly Cup ties that can further enhance his football education.

The painful tale of Thomas Vermaelen still remains sour in the mouth of every true thotoughbred Gunner. After arriving from Ajax, he rose to prominence in his debut campaign to become one of best players in the team as well as earning a place in the PFA Team of the Year.

Even the captaincy was laced on him deservedly after Robin van Persie departed to Manchester United. He became a fan favorite with a catchy nickname, the Verminator, but his fall from grace came earlier than expected.

Injury kick-started it and the meteoric rise of Koscienly/Mertesacker partnership cemented his predicament.

A rock-solid partnership

He even professed his desire to stay and fight for his place but Wenger’s consistent rigid selection policy is not helping his plight. The manager hardly rotates his starting XI and while the players getting regular game time start to suffer from fatigue, the players rotting on the bench (like Vermaelen, Nacho Monreal, Nicklas Bendtner et al) will be extremely match rusty, which won’t help the team’s cause.

Now he’s contemplating calling it quits and every other person seems to be giving him the nod to go away but I want him to stay. I know a lot of clubs would desire to have him on their team.

It’s a World Cup year and he needs to get a consistent run of games to get a place in the Belgium national team. I’m no soothsayer but I see a quick resurrection of his once glittering form, like in the case of Aaron Ramsey.

Following the departure of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, Ramsey was tasked with the heavy burden of being Arsenal’s creative hub but he struggled for form and fitness making him a lightning rod for vitriol and abuse. After rediscovering his form, Ramsey is an unstoppable juggernaut and he has already smashed in nine goals this season with the latest being a magnificent solo effort against Norwich.

There are no arguments that Vermaelen’s form was very poor last season but he needs some faith and trust from the gaffer and fans. Unfortunately, Wenger is doing the exact opposite by not rotating his center backs despite the fact that the Gunners are considerably light in this position.

Honestly, I expected most fans to clamor for Sagna and Vermaelen to stay at the club, rather than deepening their woes by the unsolicited marketing of possible replacements who are in fact not better off.

If Arsenal can keep Bacary Sagna and give Vermaelen more games to rediscover his form, then we don’t need any defensive alien from Jupiter via the January winter market.

I Remain a Gunner Till Lucifer Repents!

O. Valentine

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Arsenal Transfer Target Sime Vrsaljko: Comparing his Stats With the Club’s Current Right Backs

Arsenal are in a rich vein of form heading into the international break and it can be attributed to the collective performances of some of the players that have stood out from the crowd, shining brighter than stars in the Milky Way.

Aaron Ramsey might have missed a penalty for his nation against Macedonia, but his form prior to that game has been phenomenal and the Barclay’s Player of the Month award he just won was well deserved. Olivier Giroud has carried his goalscoring club form to his country and his double salvo against Australia must have done wonders to his confidence.

In other playing positions, there have been some vast improvements as well, but every thoroughbred Arsenal fan out there would know that some room for improvement in the right back position as Carl Jenkinson has shown his naivety and rawness in some games and can only get better with a consistent run out when Bacary Sagna isn’t fit or has to be rested.

Jenkinson has been excellent in some of the games he has played at right back but sometimes his crossing can be a bit erratic. Bacary Sagna on the other hand, is one of Arsenal’s senior figures and most consistent players in the yesteryear but after breaking the same leg twice in one season, his fitness levels aren’t as optimal as they used to be. There’s also the issue of his contract that has to be sorted out because come January 2014, Sagna would be available to sign a pre-contract agreement with another club, and he’s on high demand from the top clubs in his native France.

According to the Mirror, Arsenal is hopeful for Sagna to sign a new deal but the Gunners hierarchy is also aware that Sagna could do a van Persie on them, so they have been monitoring the progress of young Croatian full / wingback Sime Vrsaljko. The youngster began his career in the top club in his nation, Dinamo Zagreb, and won a lot of trophies in Croatian top flight before sealing a move to Genoa this season.

He has also represented Croatia at various youth levels before making his first senior appearance in 2011 against Czech Republic, With Shakhtar Donetsk’s legendary right back, Darijo Srna, ahead of Vrsaljko in the pecking order at national level, this youngster would have to wait for his turn, as Srna is reaching his twilight years and would hang up his international boots sooner rather than later.

Vrsaljko was called up to the Croatian national team setup that featured in Euro 2012 but he was an used substitute in all the games as the Croats crashed out of a tough group that had eventual winners, Spain, eventual finalists, Italy, and the group’s whooping boys, Ireland.

This season, Vrsaljko has featured consistently for Genoa and despite his young age, he has put up some mature performances for his new club, making him a mainstay in the team. With some assistance from stats giants, WhoScored, the table below shows the major statistics Vrsaljko has amassed this season,

 

Serie A

Appearances (subs)

6 (0)

Tackles made (per game)

11 (1.8)

Interceptions made (per game)

21 (3.5)

Fouls committed (per game)

9 (1.5)

Clearances (per game)

21 (3.5)

Blocked shots (per game)

1 (0.2)

Times Dribbled by other players (per game)

6 (1)

Total crosses (accurate crosses)

44 (10)

Total Passes (accurate passes)

207 (166)

Pass Completion percentage

80.2%

Key Passes (Assists)

3 (1)

Total Shots attempted (Goals)

1 (0)

Bookings (Yellow/Red)

-

In just six games for Genoa, Vrsaljko has already made 21 interceptions which shows his ability to read the game, and make vital challenges which is quite impressive for a player his age. He’s also a no-nonsense defender as his 21 clearances in just six Serie A games show that he’s always willing to take a safer option first instead of dallying on the ball.

It’s now time to compare his stats with Arsenal’s incumbent right backs, Bacary Sagna and Carl Jenkinson (League only),

 

Vrsaljko

Jenkinson

Sagna

Appearances (subs)

6 (0)

4 (2)

5 (1)

Tackles made (per game)

11 (1.8)

9 (1.5)

2 (0.3)

Interceptions made (per game)

21 (3.5)

5 (0.8)

7 (1.2)

Fouls committed (per game)

9 (1.5)

3 (0.5)

4 (0.7)

Clearances (per game)

21 (3.5)

16 (2.7)

19 (3.2)

Blocked shots (per game)

1 (0.2)

-

4 (0.7)

Times Dribbled by other players (per game)

6 (1)

1 (0.2)

1 (0.2)

Total crosses (accurate crosses)

44 (10)

20 (3)

23 (16)

Total Passes (accurate passes)

207 (166)

219 (183)

268 (239)

Pass Completion percentage

80.2%

83.6%

89.2%

Key Passes (Assists)

3 (1)

2 (1)

1 (0.2)

Total Shots attempted (Goals)

1 (0)

-

3 (1)

Bookings (Yellow/Red)

-

-

1 / 0

These stats have proven that Arsenal needs to do all they can to secure the services of Bacary Sagna. Sagna is a more accurate passer of the ball than the younger players he’s compared with and he has even sent in more accurate crosses than the two of them put together this season. As the table shows, Jenkinson has to really improve on his crossing because he gets into encouraging positions but his output is below par.

However, if Sagna chooses not to renew his deal with the club, Sime Vrsaljko will not be a bad alternative. For a player so young, his stats are really impressive and he can get even better under the tutelage of Le Professeur himself, Arsene Wenger.

Sayonara.

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5 Players that Need to Step their Game Up in the 2013/14 season

He really messed up last season

I certainly cannot look back at the entire 2012/13 season with pride because it turned out to be another classic case of what might have been…a familiar story with anyone concerned with Arsenal Football Club.

In the last 10 Premier League games, Arsenal recorded an impressive eight wins and two draws, which would be regarded as a title-chasing form but unfortunately, it was just enough to usurp fierce rivals, Tottenham, to fourth place. Manchester United with a certain Robin van Persie in its ranks ran away with the Premier League title while Manchester City and Chelsea chased the leading pack with European football guaranteed.

While Manchester City fans faced the unfathomable heartbreak of losing to Wigan in a cup final (…been there, done that), Chelsea ended their campaign as well as Rafa Benitez’s tumultuous stay with the Europa League title, which ensured that they picked up some silverware, a term not associated with the red half of North London in recent seasons.

The Gunners didn’t fare any better in the domestic cup competitions as well, with embarrassing losses to Bradford City in the Capital One Cup and Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup. In the Champions League, the Gunners matched a putrid home performance with a spirited away encounter against the eventual winners, Bayern Munich.

At the end of the 2012/13 campaign, the new signings proved their worth in gold as Santi Cazorla emerged to be one of the buys of the season, endearing himself into Arsenal hearts with his outstanding displays all season long. Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski also proved to be great additions to the team as their goals and assists helped Arsenal’s cause as the season progressed.

The performances of Theo Walcott didn’t go unnoticed and he signed a new deal to keep him in the club, as well as the young British core that contributed in more ways than one. It would take a watchful Arsenal fan to know that unsung heroes like Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny worked their skins off for the team over the course of the season.

Other notable highlights of the campaign included the goalkeeping shuffles, the intense battle between Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal, the deadwood loaned out and of course, the unfortunate injury to the glass-boned Abou Diaby.

Some players like Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny et al could raise their heads high and pat themselves in the back for a brilliant season but I’m going to lay emphasis on five Arsenal players that were largely disappointing in the entire campaign and they need to step their game up for the forthcoming season or face the axe.

Here’s my take on the infamous five.

Wojciech Szczesny

With Manuel Almunia leaving the club when his contract expired, Wojciech Szczesny took over the No. 1 jersey and great things were expected the big Pole. Despite his young age and inexperience, Arsene Wenger was more than willing to stick to his young Pole, because he had shown his glimpses of quality in the past and he could only get better with raw experience on the field.

He began the campaign with a clean sheet against Sunderland and an ankle injury halted his progress for a couple of weeks before he returned to the fold with a gaffe against Southampton. He swiftly returned to action after his injuries and even featured in cup matches, as Wenger certainly wasn’t convinced about Vito Mannone.

This brought an air of complacency into Szczesny’s game which saw his form wane, much to his team’s detriment.

Wenger acted swiftly by dropping him for a returning Lukasz Fabianski but an unfortunate rib injury to the elder Pole handed Szczesny another chance in the team. He put up more decent performances in his return but Szczesny has to remember that there will be no room for error in the 2013/14 campaign.

Arsenal has been heavily linked with a move for Brazilian shot stopper, Julio Cesar, but nothing concrete has come to fruition. Szczesny needs to step up this season to convince everyone that he’s still the right man for the job, because Arsenal can afford able replacements.

Thomas Vermaelen

In one word, last season was an aberration for Thomas Vermaelen.

With Robin van Persie departing for greener pastures, the mantle of the captaincy was handed over to the Belgian Verminator and it probably turned out to be a burden as his performances proved.

The Verm always wanted to get “involved” to aid his team, only to end up shooting everyone on the foot with a rifle. His clumsiness was a major highlight last season as he kept on committing needless fouls as well as a penalty against Montpellier that ended up inflicting damage to his team.

Then there was the inch-perfect assist to van Persie in Old Trafford as well as that penalty miss that doomed Arsenal to defeat against Bradford.

More appalling performances particularly against Liverpool (home) and Manchester City (home) followed but the last straw was undoubtedly his atrocious outing against Tottenham (away). Wenger axed him from the squad from that moment on and he could only manage a game against Norwich (home) because Mertesacker was suspended.

He was linked with a move away but the Belgian pledged to stay and fight for his place. The manager has also backed him up, stating that he’s to remain as club captain for the forthcoming season.

In Vermaelen’s absence, Arsenal conceded only five goals in 10 Premier League games and two were conceded from open play. The Verm has to step up if he’s to break the impregnable Mertecielny combination.

Bacary Sagna

A true model of consistency in the yesteryear, replaced by a sloppy player after returning from two horrific leg injuries. Despite the affinity Arsenal fans have towards Bacary Sagna, his performances on his return from injury weren’t good enough, especially coming from a player that has maintained such high standards in previous campaigns.

Young Carl Jenkinson deputized admirably in Sagna’s absence,but many wondered if the Bac Man would replicate the form that won him a place in the 2008 PFA Team of the Year. He was a colossus in Arsenal’s away victory over Sunderland when he deputized as a make-shift center back but his outing against Newcastle (home), Chelsea (away) and Southampton (away) were terribly appalling.

Just when we thought we had seen it all, Sagna self destructed at home to Manchester United by gifting a wayward pass to van Persie before scything him down in the box, forcing the ref to point to the spot.

This summer he has been linked with a move back to his native France but if he decides to stay with Arsenal, he needs to step his game up, because Arsenal has been linked with moves for Dortmund’s Lukasz Piszczek and Freiburg’s Sebastian Jung. Let’s not forget that there’s a certain Carl Jenkinson waiting to get take advantage too.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

It’s fair to say that the Ox suffered the well-renowned “second season syndrome” as he clearly failed to live up to the hype surrounding him in his first campaign in the Premier League.

Last season, the Ox failed to assert himself and his chances diminished with Theo Walcott’s growing importance to the team. There was even a point when he was further down the pecking order behind Gervinho.

Despite his shortcomings, the Ox showed some glimpses of his undoubted quality and his wonder strike against Coventry City was a friendly reminder of what he was made of. He also scored a goal in that 7-3 thumping of Newcastle and his most important contribution last season was his neat cutback to Giroud the 3-1 win over Norwich.

Arsenal’s reliance on Theo Walcott on the right may become a burden and there may be times when the Ox will be called upon to deliver. He has to show that he has what it takes.

Gervinho

Anytime I think of Gervinho’s horrendous miss against Bradford, I tend to wonder where it went all wrong.

If Arsenal had managed to win the lowly League Two outfit, a semifinal berth against a struggling Aston Villa would have beckoned and if they had secured a win against the Villans, the Gunners would have been in Wembley against Chelsea or Swansea.

If and only if…classic Arsenal cliche.

But here we are with Gervais Yao Kouassi, the fleet-footed and scintillating dribbling that offers nothing on the final third, except you’re a Southampton (home), Montpellier (away), Chelsea (home), Olympiakos (home), Swansea (away) and Reading (home). Despite his numerous shortcomings as a player, Gervinho still managed seven goals and supplied five assists last season.

He’s certainly got going to be a regular unless injuries to first team players or other factors come into play, but Gervinho has to really step up his game when he comes up as an impact sub.

This is a player that scored 36 goals in two seasons with LOSC Lille Metropole, that’s the Gervinho we all need.

****

I just hope that these Gunners will do well to kill their personal demons and play very well in the upcoming season because Arsene Wenger’s future might just be in their hands.

Sayonara.

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