Not only was it Valentine’s Day, it was also Bacary Sagna‘s 31st birthday! That may not seem article worthy, but the full-back’s age is proving to be an issue for Arsenal of late as talks to extend his contract at the club broke down again this week.
To keep hold of the Frenchman, the Gunners would likely have to break their policy of only offering players over the age of 30 one-year deals. With an agreement between the two looking increasingly unlikely, the fans are already starting to speculate who might be lined up to replace him.
With that in mind we’ve jumped on the bandwagon to highlight a player from each of Europe’s top 5 leagues that has put in the sort of performances at right-back this season that should have caught the eye. We’ve used Sagna’s Premier League statistics as a template for replacement where possible, but come up with 5 very different options that Wenger could possibly pursue.
We start in England, and of all right-backs in the Premier League this season few have impressed to the extent that Seamus Coleman has managed. The Everton defender has netted 5 league goals and is perhaps better known for his attacking capabilities as a result.
He’s created 1.2 chances per game this season, which is twice the figure of Sagna’s (0.6) and is able to bomb on down Everton’s right flank, which proves particularly effective as Kevin Mirallas ahead of him likes to cut inside. His tendency to offer an option on the overlap would only stand him in good stead for a side like Arsenal too, who tend not to deploy out-and-out wingers.
Defensively sound, with 2.2 tackles and 1.6 interceptions per game also in excess of Sagna’s figures, the only area in which the Irishman is considerably weaker than the France international comes in the air, having won just 0.4 aerial duels per game compared to Sagna’s impressive 3.9. It remains to be seen whether Arsenal would be willing to fork out the sort of money that the Toffees would likely demand or whether the player himself would be tempted by the move, but Coleman could certainly be an interesting option.
The options in La Liga aren’t exactly plentiful. The top rated right-back in Spain is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Dani Alves but there is one man that isn’t far behind. With an average of 7.30 over the course of the season thus far Espanyol’s Javi López has again displayed just how dependable a defender he is.
A late bloomer, the 28-year old only broke into Espanyol’s first team in 2010 but he’s been extremely solid at the back over the last two seasons. Our La Liga expert David Cartlidge sheds more light on López’s style, saying “Excellent physically, he is combative and energetic across the whole 90 minutes, pushing on when he can to support his winger”.
He’s not the best player from a technical standpoint but with a huge 4.6 tackles and 2.9 interceptions game he never disappoints at the back. “Defensively he’s always been strong and aware from a positional point of view and never makes rash tackles or decisions,” Cartlidge continues. If Wenger is more concerned with replacing Sagna’s defensive capabilities, López has certainly shown he’s up to the task this season.