Now, flash-forward five months and the French international was selected as a centre-back by manager Arsene Wenger, starting against the boss’ former club Nagoya Grampus in Japan on Monday.
Sagna, now 30 years old, had been the subject of speculation earlier on this year with reports suggesting he could be headed for an Emirates exit – most notably he was linked with Paris Saint-Germain.
However, this reported ‘interest’ seems to have cooled considerably in the last few months and it looks increasingly likely that he will remain at Arsenal as he heads into the final year of his contract.
But, what nobody could have predicted is how capable he is as a central defender – in the absence of both captain Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny who are both out injured, Sagna filled in against the Japanese outfit this week alongside Per Mertesacker and looked every bit as capable as the giant German.
He held the high line well, didn’t stray too far from his position, anticipated danger and read the game admirably and was useful in the air. Of course, the opposition were not too much of a challenge but his performance against Sunderland last term was very challenging and he stood up well to the task then too.
The Gunners have been linked for several months with interest in Swansea captain Ashley Williams but is it possible that they made not be required to make a defensive signing this summer as Sagna covers all the bases?
If Koscielny and Mertesacker are first-choice pairing as they were this year, Vermaelen can alternate with them, Sagna is first-choice right-back with Carl Jenkinson a very keen and capable understudy, Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal competing for the left-back position and young Ignasi Miquel waiting patiently down in the reserves for his chance, Arsenal don’t really have a requirement for a player of Williams’ stature – especially if Sagna is as capable and comfortable of covering at centre-back as he appears to be.
Carl Jenkinson excelled last season, while Hector Bellerin and Nico Yennaris can both make the step up to fill in at right-back when such occasions demand it.
I very much doubt that Sagna would be required to fill in very often but, should he remain at the Emirates to see out his contract next term, he may well get his opportunity to play that position – judging by the outcome of the two occasions he was deployed there, Arsenal could do a lot lot worse.
Would you like to see Arsenal continue to explore this option ,
image: © Ronnie Macdonald