Sagna Makes A Valid Point

Bacary Sagna touched upon a topic that could be described as Wenger’s Achilles’ Heel. Here is what the French full back said,

Sometimes I think we play too much, We just want to do that and do not think about what is good for us – sometimes we just need to cut out the football, stop playing for a bit and just consider what will help us achieve what we want.

In the wake of conceding four goals in another big game it is understandable that a defender is asking for some focus on defence! If you want to be critical you could say Sagna is advocating anti-football, something most of us Arsenal fans look down upon. Or in a positive sense you could see he is being pragmatic.

I’m not a big fan of putting 10 men behind the ball. Not even against a team like Barca. After all, Chelsea tried that and for all their defensive abilities, they too were dumped out.

There is a difference between parking the bus and being a strong, well-organized defensive unit. Barca received a lot of plaudits for their passing, flair and attacking play. One aspect of their game that some people missed was their tactical switch to containment in the second half at the Camp Nou and a perfect execution of beautiful yet safe football!

I’ve been talking all season about the need for a proper defence coach and rigorous training. You could say that I’m being disrespectful towards our present coaches and have no idea what we actually do in training. Well, you could be right but I’ll find it difficult to change my opinion as long as we conceded stupid goals just because our defenders are afraid of kicking the ball out for a corner!

Defenders in every other team that I’ve seen in England or in Europe are quite comfortable in knocking the ball out as a safety first policy. Arsenal are the only team whose defenders repeatedly make suicidal reverse clearances. Clichy did that against Bolton, Sagna against Birmingham and most recently Vermaelen at the Camp Nou. And these are just some top of mind ones, I’m sure I can think of more if I really try.

To me our fear of conceding corners and this statement from Sagna is clear evidence that our own defenders are not confident about our defensive skills as a team. It’s not an issue with individuals. Even the likes of Song and Vermaelen who are amongst our best players this season have been guilty of blunders that have gifted goals to the opposition in big matches.

The first thing is that everyone needs to recognize is that there is a problem. More than everyone, Arsene needs to acknowledge this.

The counter argument some people offer is that we’ve only conceded 34 goals this season. 4 more than Chelsea, 7 more than United which is not too bad. I’d say the other way of looking at this is that teams below us in the league like Villa, Liverpool – who are supposedly having a hopeless season, and even the tiny Totts have conceded less than us! Villa are a good 17 points behind us yet they have conceded 2 goals less.

More importantly, the issue is not about conceding only 4 more. It’s about the nature in which we’ve conceded and some of the goals have been down to really dumb mistakes and school boy defending. When too many of your top players make silly mistakes in defence, is it not safe to assume that we don’t train well enough?

It could be down to the coaches, the amount of time, the exact drills that we do or any other factor. I don’t know what the exact cause is as it’s likely to be a combination of factors.

I know we all want Arsenal to be associated with positive and beautiful football. Yet, as Barcelona showed us, we can be positive and pragmatic at the same time. It’s high time Le Boss gives the art of defending it’s due respect.


23 Responses to Sagna Makes A Valid Point

  1. John Muhindo says:

    Sagna,arsenal has beautifull football and indeed they over play, now what is left is to be sharp to score at any point of the pitch whatever distance may be from the goal post.

  2. Aussie Jack says:

    In my footballing days things were so different that there is no point in comparing. On the one hand one could say we would never have measured up to todays standards on the other it could be argued that ,given todays conditions and equipment, we would have been more than equal. We will never know.
    What I do know is that we played one game at a time and quite often we didn`t know our opponent until training on Thursday night. Just keep winning was our motto then once every six weeks or so someone would tell us our position in the league. If you keep winning you know you`re up there somewhere, so just keep winning……

    • desigunner says:

      These days you need to know a lot about the opposition if you want to just keep winning. I think tactics have evolved to a whole new level as football has developed into the most popular sport in the world.

  3. stan says:

    I do not agree with you’re viewpoint.
    I.M.H.O the fact that the defenders have no confidence whatsoever in Almunia, especially on corners and freekicks, influences their decision making.
    Also there is little or no help comming from the likes of Arshavin, Walcott and others in defence.
    Just my 2 cents.

    cheers
    Stan

    • desigunner says:

      I think the problem between Almunia and the defenders is a chicken and egg situation. Our defenders want the keeper to come for almost everything.

      I’d love to know the number of times Vidic, Ferdinand, Terry and co win headers and how often Van der Saar and Cech are forced to come out vis a vis Arsenal defenders and Almunia.

      Agree with you about the relative uselessness of Arshavin, Walcott, Fabregas and Denilson on set pieces. But the mistakes we have seen are also from the likes of Diaby, Song and some of our bigger players.

  4. Jazz says:

    Arsene’s a gambling idiot.dude shud resign!

  5. MikeB says:

    I can’t agree, our problem is the beautiful passing game isn’t beautiful enough. We have too many weak areas, particularly at the back and front. When we won everything it was to do with speed from back to front and deadly finishing. Now we only have beauty in the middle of the park. A top quality striker would convert at least 50% of the chances we currently miss, while a top quality defence and keeper would add security and get the ball to midfield quicker. Sagna has to take some of the blame for our counter attacking moves not being quick enough. Bendtner’s profligacy and limited threat is the reason opposing defences feel they can press higher, with limited consequence… for all of that with two or three quality buys this summer I think we truly can rule Europe.

    • desigunner says:

      Well if you look at the shots to goals ratio, even Rooney, Drogba etc aren’t earth shattering. There aren’t too many who can finish better than 1 in 5 or 6 chances, although some of those are half chances.

      I agree about the speed of our movement. It seems to have gone down over the season. I wrote about it in the last post.

  6. Beans says:

    I’m getting sick and tired of players like Sagna coming out and saying ‘we need to do this’ and ‘we need to do that’ to win. Try learning how to cross a good final ball before you start talking about what the team needs. What we need is for players like you to shut up and stop wasting good chances with idiotic decisions, poor technical ability and a serious lack of heart. Players need to look at their own deficiencies before they go public with such words of wisdom. When they start putting in 100% every single week, not just against teams they know they can beat, then they can talk. Otherwise they need to spend more time on the training ground and less in the hair salon.

    • Kwesi says:

      Nice one there, man. I think the players should be looking at themselves and see how they can improve as individuals before talking about the collective team.

    • desigunner says:

      I think players like Sagna give 100% but they struggle because we’ve had many injuries and a lot of people haven’t fully adapted to this formation. Our full backs have had very little cover this season and considering that they haven’t done too poorly.

      To an extent they have had to focus more on defence because there hasn’t been enough midfield cover and consequently their attacking input has gone down.

      Still Sagna has 4 assists, just 1 less than Ivanovic and Evra. Not bad I would say but it will get better once the full backs get better cover and everyone understands the formation.

  7. Sunaadh says:

    >>”Try learning how to cross a good final ball before you start talking about what the team needs”

    Like the cross against Wolves.

    >>”idiotic decisions, poor technical ability and a serious lack of heart”

    Like choosing to cross against Wolves in the FINAL minute, with ONE striker in the box.

    >>”When they start putting in 100% every single week, not just against teams they know they can beat, then they can talk”

    The past weeks where we’ve scored 6 or 7 goals in injury time?? I’m sure that’s just 95%. HANG THEM ALL.

    >>”Otherwise they need to spend more time on the training ground and less in the hair salon.”

    Sagna’s worst performance vs Sunderland, he didn’t have his dreads. The man dreads to win!!

    Either way, I’m sick of people saying our fullbacks don’t know how to cross. When there are usually zero or one people attacking in the box, the chances of them connecting with a cross are pretty low.

    • Beans says:

      Sunaadh, I hear you and you make a fair point but I think there are 2 problems. Firstly, every player in the league has a particularly useful/special moment at least once during the season and they can easily be highlighted. There is no excuse for professionals to struggle to do the basic things well and consistently. Sagna is a good defender and I hate to pick on him but I think it’s been bubbling up over the season due to comments by other players too. Which leads me to my second point which is that too many players who do not perform to their maximum ability come out and chat rubbish in the papers about what we need to succeed when what we need first and foremost is for each player to step up and play to the top level all the time. I’m not Arsenal bashing and I protect them every week, it just hurts when we can all see that with a tiny bit more application (before the signing of new players) we would be top of the league and perhaps in the semi finals of the CL. Whether Sagna and Clichy can cross is another conversation and I agree with you 100% that we don’t have anyone in the box to aim at, but I think our main problem is simple application and commitment. I think both were lacking massively in the Barca games, as well as Manure and Chelski and that’s very disappointing.

  8. Gennie says:

    I just do not agree with you. First because Sagna’s statements do not make sense at all. Barca play a lot more than we do and they win. What does Sagna really mean when he says we play too much? And how do you translate that into the defense not wanting to kick the ball out for a corner or just hoof it away? Where do you get all these? I think you should not put words into Sagna’s mouth.

    When you say that Sagna, in the Birmingham match in the last minute when he failed to clear and the ball bounced off Phillips to get into the net was an attempt by Sagna to clear without conceding a corner (or in this case he just wanted to play irrespective of the imminent danger), you are mistaken. The ball found Sagna in a position and posture that he could not have done otherwise (yes I have seen your earlier article following the Birmingham match, the one with photos and everything). I say this because Sagna is the most prudent of our defenders who is prepared to hoof it away to safety.

    I agree with you, however, on the need for more defensive drills and skills for the defense as a unit, not as individuals. The same thing for the midfield, and then all outfield players must understand the art of defending as a unit. To support each other in order to prevent the opposition having a free run on goal. We rarely see Arsenal packing the bus even when it is absolutely the only thing that needs to be done. Had they done this during the last minute of the Birmingham match, Arsenal would be two points ahead of Man U and equal in points to Chelsea. Just before Birmingham scored I was screaming on to the screen, where was Denilson? what was Bendtner, Arshavin, Nasri etc doing upfield at that point (see your earlier article where you analysed how the Phillips goal was conceded). I was expecting, after they failed to score in their last effort, all of them to stream back and defend in numbers to safeguard the goal, after all it was the last minute and everybody was tired and these guys had just come in particularly Arshavin and Nasri. Arshavin had more reason to fall back and defend as he had missed a couple of quite open chances. Instead, they just stood upfield over the halfway line and watched as the defense tried to cover their mistakes of not scoring, for had they scored a second goal, the Phillips goal would have not the same impact. Arsene need to do to Arshavin what he did to the whole team at Anfield in December last year, he is turning into a very annoying fellow for his, quite frankly, laziness, poor attitude and in summary lack or minimalistic application.

    • desigunner says:

      I’m not trying to put words into Sagna’s mouth. The fact that our defenders don’t kick the ball out for a corner is my observation and I’m using it in conjunction with what Sagna said.

      For the birmingham goal, I thought Sagna could easily have attacked the ball with his head and headed it out for a corner instead of trying the reverse kick. Given the fact that he was facing the goal even a kick out for a corner would have been easier rather than a kick towards the half way line which he tried.

      When I talked about defensive drills and training I did mean for the whole team. I’m sorry if it came across as something only for the defenders. I’ve always believed in collective defending and if you read my analysis of most goals that we conceded I normally try to identify more than one minor mistake that culminated in a goal.

  9. Ole Gunner says:

    Sagna’s words have been twisted and taken out of context.

    I would imagine that the key word in the quote is ‘sometimes’.

    For some reason, that’s eluded both the blogger and the entire media.

    • desigunner says:

      I agree that sometimes is a keyword. But doesn’t that sometimes make the difference between 3rd and 1st, quarter finalists and champions?

      We are almost there and I think there are many minor details that can help us become a champion team. Perhaps my writing style is such that this doesn’t come across in the right way.

  10. Kofi says:

    I think the issue is Sagna is being critical becos he has to compete with a more skillful player in Eboue

  11. critic says:

    same problem has prsisted since 2007- 08 season, u can outscore smaller teams but against big team goals won’t come easily, no matter eve if u have frontline of rvp’s.

  12. critic says:

    what nonsense comments are their…..sagna is absolutely right, arsenal tends to overplay eg. against birmingham, plus they don’t know how to defend,

    against barcelona it was rubbish to play beautiful football which nobody saw, they were dependent upon counter attacks. After taking the crucial lead at nou camp they should have defended, after conceding first they shud have defended, get more organised, instead they threw men mindlessly forward. It was same against utd and chelsea at home.

  13. Jazz says:

    Listen to me u gooners, lets get anutha gaffer with balls to buy experienced players

  14. Samuel says:

    But Sagnas wonderful ball watching skills contributed to Messi,s goal tally ,just like Campbell,Silvestre and the clown Gallas ,who have no clue on how to defend ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s