Arsene Wenger’s one-year contract policy for player’s over thirty used to be criticised, often fiercely. Some were of the view that Wenger was neglecting the value of experience, especially in the post-Highbury youth project.
Though it would be wrong to say Wenger always got it wrong, in fact more often than not he was right. There are exceptions: Gilberto Silva had a lot more to offer the club when he was moved on 2008, and not just because he was one of three defensive midfielders the team lost that year. But the positive about Wenger is that he seems to know when players are declining, even if it isn’t obvious to everyone else.
You could almost forget that Bacary Sagna is 30, and by the time his current contract runs out he’ll be 31. There has been a dip in form over the past year, but that was indicative of the injury problems Sagna has suffered and not of his advancing years. He provides stability, both in defence and away from the pitch in the dressing room. He’s a model pro, staying quiet and on form while the exodus of major stars took place. He’s the type of figure almost every club would value, and it’s clear, as even at his age, the powers in France are showing an interest.
But it’s not just that. The value of a player is told by his relationship with the supporters. There is still an immense bond between Sagna and the Arsenal fan base. There would have been little said had he received the captain’s armband following Robin van Persie’s departure. Retaining such a figure will only help to maintain the good feeling at the club.
The thing is, Wenger works by what he feels is right, and not by outside pressures. There would be a lot of frustration if the club fails to offer Sagna an extension of more than just a year, and many will be mindful of the fact that Carl Jenkinson isn’t quite up to standard to be a regular in the XI, regardless of his promising performances.
From a footballing perspective, it makes sense to keep Sagna as long as possible. With very little else in the way of players coming through the academy, it can’t be said that Sagna is blocking the development of others, while even Jenkinson will experience a safer and less troublesome journey over the next few years with Sagna as the veteran figure ahead of him.
But as has been said, Wenger knows when the time is right. There are no comparisons to be made between those who have been sold prior to reaching their peak years, but rather the older heads who were either past their prime or flat out declining. Following Thierry Henry’s departure, the rest of the team were liberated and produced some of the best football under Wenger. With the case of the right-back position, Arsenal are known to have been tracking Sime Vrsaljko, who came up through the academy at Dinamo Zagreb but moved to Genoa in the summer.
It may not be the most popular decision if the club do decide that Sagna’s services are no longer required, but with Wenger and his team, there has to be faith that there is something in the works. When it comes to outgoing transfers, Wenger rarely gets it wrong.
Should fans have faith in Wenger’s decision?
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