Defensive Player of the Week

By: Alden Smith 18th November 2010

Bacary set to keep Bale quiet

While Arsenal full-back Bacary Sagna has often been the provider of his fair share of assists, we wonder if Frenchman can continue his recent attacking displays while facing the sternest of tests this weekend, in Gareth Bale.

Until last week Bacary Sagna had only managed a solitary goal in his Arsenal career spanning over three years, a header from a corner against Chelsea in 2008.

Although football fans and Fantasy League managers alike would wonder why this is the case after watching him smash an unstoppable shot past Tim Howard, to give Arsenal the lead at Goodison last weekend.

Arsenal’s defence is showing signs of improvement, and if they can keep tight, there’s no reason why Sagna can’t succeed where others have failed, by keeping Gareth Bale quiet this weekend.

Born on Valentine’s Day, the young Frenchman started his footballing career with Auxerre, and soon caught the canny eye of Arsene Wenger, who parted with £6m for the then 24 year-old right-back.

Sagna took the number three jersey vacated by Ashley Cole and quickly became a reliable defensive force, capable of weighing in with a few assists here and there.

In his first season he amassed a career best of 38 Fantasy League points, including four assists and even though he only assisted once in his second season, Sagna was an integral part of a defence which kept 13 clean sheets.

In 2009/10 he weighed in with five assists, proving his ability to get forward and support the attack, although Arsenal’s defence was less consistent and Sagna’s total points dropped for the second year running.

This season Arsenal have adopted a slightly different team strategy, and the use of Marouane Chamakh as an option for crosses will no doubt give the Frenchman the chance to supply assists.

While Wenger previously encouraged full-backs to get forward and provide an option for short passes in and around the area, Sagna can now use the full length of the pitch, looking for over-laps and helping supply their attackers.

Seeing his beaded locks far up the field terrorising full-backs has been a common sight this season, and Wenger would have been encouraged by his performance in France’s defeat of England, where he was often leading the counter-attacks down the right side.

However the Arsenal boss is no tactical mug, and while he knows the ability Sagna has for getting forward, this weekend could be a huge test for the both of them.

Gareth Bale has been sensational down the Spurs left of late, as Inter Milan’s Maicon and Blackburn's Michel Salgado would testify.

While some teams have to forgo any foraging forward from their right-backs to make sure Bale is starved of space, Sagna actually has the speed and the defensive intelligence to cope with the winged wonder.

If the Frenchman does venture forward this could also unlock one of Spurs’ weak spots, in Benoit Assou-Ekotto, meaning Bale may find himself helping out defensively more than offensively.

Despite the loss of Thomas Vermaelen through injury Arsenal have kept three clean sheets from their last five games and have only let in three goals in six.

The new found form of Lukasz Fabianski has probably been the biggest factor in this, and he’ll no doubt need to be on the top of his game again for another clean sheet.

There will certainly be no need for motivational speeches from either manager on Saturday as the North London rivals face up to each other at The Emirates.

Although with the home side knowing a win will albeit briefly, put them top of the league, we’re expecting a home win, and a key role for Bacary.

Who do you think will win the North London derby? Will Sagna be the latest player to be embarrassed by Bale? Where are the other key battles? Leave your comments below.


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