The story in the national press about how talks over a new contract between Bacary Sagna and Arsenal have reached stalemate is a reminder that for all the talk of player’s lacking loyalty, the exit door swings both ways. Reminder is the right word, because there’s little new here.
The club is sticking to its policy of not offering players about to enter their thirties long term deals on big money wages, particularly off the back of two leg breaks. (Although, infuriatingly, that rule doesn’t seem to apply when signing salary thieves like Squillaci or Silvestre.)
From Sagna’s point of view, this is likely his last significant contract and he’ll be looking to lock-in as much financial security as he can. As well he should, with a young family to provide for. Perhaps he also wants a crack at winning some pots, which have so far eluded him since leaving France.
Here’s what I’d like to see happen: We offer him a two-year deal, with a decent but not insane wage bump, with a view to mentoring Jenkinson into becoming the next great Arsenal right back. If he turns down that deal – and plenty think he’s already made his mind up to leave – then we let him run his contract down and go in the Summer of 2014, at which point he’ll still only be 31 and free to sign for someone on Bosman megabucks. I wouldn’t begrudge a pro who’s been a model of consistency and commitment his final payday.
Here’s what I absolutely do not want to happen: This summer we accept the first offer that’s North of £5m for him, on the basis that any fee is better than nothing, and again allow the squad to be drained of Champions League-proven experience. Because it’s that sort of nickel and dime approach that’s killing the club. I like Jenkinson. I think he’s got potential – but right now it’s a stretch to say he’s definitely the answer long term. So let’s keep Sagna around, and manage their playing time, while we make that call, rather than ramp up the pressure on a 20 year-old to replace a two-time PFA Team Of The Year fullback.
But hey, I’d have done the same with van Persie. I’d have kept even a furious, 50% as productive, player rather than sell our talismanIic captain to our most hated ex-rivals. But you couldn’t turn down £24m! Actually, you could. Especially because if we don’t qualify for the Champions League this season, as seems possible, then we’ll lose around £23m in TV and prize money according to Swiss Ramble – and that’s without factoring lost gate revenue. Not to mention the psychic damage inflicted on the fans and players’ perception of the club.
Ask yourself how many points United have been down this season without him? Six? Nine maybe? With the goals they’re shipping – as many as Norwich in the league so far – perhaps they’d be in the same sort of mess we are. Still, that ship has already sailed. Right over the horizon and into the abyss.
If I sound miserable it’s because I am. More so than usual. If nothing else, doesn’t the Sagna situation smack of incompetent PR? I think the reason most fans have reacted with such exasperation – and there haven’t been many of the amateur accountant out this time claiming “it’ll be a great deal” – is because we like to see something of ourselves in him. Here’s why I think Sagna is the perfect proxy for a lot of fans…
- He hates Spurs. As evidenced by his epic header against them in last season’s 5-2.
- He’s a bit quiet during matches. Zing!
- He loves the club, and has stuck with Arsene, but has finally snapped and started openly questioning our approach.
- He’s got no time for Adebayor…
- Even he wanted M’Vila in the summer.
The difference, of course, is however pissed off we get – we can’t leave. Well, and also this. But look, Sagna is one of us. He’s part of the Rebel Alliance. You don’t just flog him for chump change.
Or if you do, all you achieve is an acceleration of the “Arsenal can’t keep their stars” narrative of constant transition. And before you reach for the Jenkinson button again, reflect on the irony of sitting here in the ashes of Project Youth, and then suggesting the answer is shipping out the best right back in the league and replacing him with another unproven tyro. Because that’s the scenario that ultimately sees Jack Wilshere lose patience and join the exodus in a couple of seasons. Still, we’ll have a new kit manufacturer then, eh?