Rafael or Sagna for United? Only one winner in terms of stats

Recent reports linked Arsenal right-back Bacary Sagna with a move to Manchester United, so how does he compare with Brazilian Rafael?

Reports over the weekend suggested a somewhat surprising destination for soon-to-be free agent Bacary Sagna.

The Arsenal right-back is approaching the end of his current deal at the Emirates Stadium and is yet to agree a new one.  While there have been suggestions that the Gunners hope to keep the Frenchman beyond the summer, there have been just as many pointing to a future away from North London, with Manchester City tipped to make a move.

But now Manchester United have reportedly entered the race, with manager-elect Louis van Gaal reportedly unsure of current right-back Rafael and looking at alternatives.

Sagna certainly fits the bill, with years of Premier League experience and a consistency the envy of many.  But how does he compare with the Brazilian?

A look at the Opta stats below shows that the Arsenal man comes out on top in four of five key defensive areas, making more effective clearances and effective headed clearances per game, and also winning more duels and considerably more aerial battles.

In fact the only area the United man betters his counterpart is when it comes to interceptions won - but not by much.

  Effective Clearance / appsEffective Head Clearance / appsDuel Won / appsAerial Won / appsInterception Won / appsMins
Bacary Sagna 4.97 3.03 6.09 3.49 1.46 3,060
Rafael 4.00 2.42 5.42 0.95 1.84 1,418

But what about in the attacking area of the field?  After all, that is now every bit as important for a full-back as their defensive duties.

Unsurprisingly given his style of play, Rafael fairs better here, just pipping Sagna in terms of accurate crosses per match and playing more key passes.  However, the Arsenal star has by far the upper-hand in terms of accurate passes per appearance - almost double Rafael's in fact.  The same goes for accurate long-balls while he just has the better of things in terms of goal assists.

  Accurate Cross / appsAccurate Pass / appsAccurate Long Balls / appsGoal Assist / appsTotal Key Pass / appsAppsMins
Rafael 0.53 27.63 0.79 0.05 0.89 19 1,418
Bacary Sagna 0.51 45.20 1.54 0.06 0.60 35 3,060

When you consider that Rafael has also played considerably less than Sagna, due in no small part to the injuries that continue to blight his career, it makes sense that United would be linked with a man considerably more consistent and more regularly available.

So if the reports are true, Sagna has a big decision to make this summer: The blue half of Manchester, the red half, somewhere else entirely or a prolonged stay at the club he has served so well up to now?

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