Rumours surrounding the departure of Arsenal's Bacary Sagna have gathered pace from as far back as last year, however the ex-Auxerre man has quashed such claims this summer. "I enjoy playing for Arsenal," Sagna told the Guardian. "I love my team, and I always give my best. I'm still here. Many people were talking about me going back to France but I'm still here and I'm looking forward to a big season with Arsenal."
Bacary Sagna has competition for his place though: a 21-year-old called Carl Jenkinson. The former Charlton Athletic youth player has steadily grown into the Arsenal first team and has recently spoken out about his desire to fight Sagna for the right full-back position next season.
The 2014 World Cup looms over the horizon and Jenkinson has ambitions of making Roy Hodgson's 23-man squad in Brazil. "It would be a dream for me to go to a World Cup and if I can play for Arsenal every week then I would give myself a chance," he said, adding: "Hopefully I'll get more playing time than I did last year because that was a bit frustrating at times but I think this is an opportunity to show I'm ready. If I can play in some of these games then I think I can show that I can play week-in and week-out."
With Jenkinson showing fight, desire and determination following his one and only cap at the Friends Arena in Stockholm last November, and Sagna's contract expiring next year, is it time for Arsene Wenger to make Jenkinson the first choice right-back at Arsenal?
Youth Versus Experience
Six years of highs and lows have passed since Sagna's move to Arsenal from Auxerre. A mainstay for his club, he featured as part of the disastrous French World Cup campaign in 2010, while also missing out on Euro 2012 due to a broken leg sustained against Norwich City in May last year. Casting international disappointments to one side, Sagna performed well during the 2012-13 Premier League season, albeit somewhat inconsistently at times.
The 30-year-old Frenchman finished as the second best full-back in the English top-flight behind Everton's Leighton Baines, while finishing as the eighth best defender overall following a Squawka Performance Score of 997. Sagna's 30s may be upon him, but he's still showing signs of class for The Gunners.
If we analyse Sagna's statistics from the above image a little more closely however, we begin to see areas of weakness, as well as one positive aspect
Wenger encourages a passing ethos throughout the entire squad, from front to back, left to right; passing triangles that result in aesthetically pleasing football. Sagna's possession score of 740 should please his boss, but his attacking and defensive scores leave a lot to be desired. The defence score is the fourth lowest out of the top 10 Premier League defenders, while the attack score is the lowest of any top 10 defender last season.
Sagna may keep hold of the ball well, but does he offer a great deal of defensive cover, and will he threaten opponents on a regular basis in the final third? Last season's statistics would seem to suggest otherwise.
Could Jenkinson be the long-term answer to Arsenal's right-sided defensive and attacking frailties? It's perhaps unfair to strictly judge them side by side, as Jenkinson made 11 fewer appearances (14) than his rival, but the young Englishman is showing a great deal of potential.
Jenkinson may have created fewer key passes, but this is perhaps to be expected considering the number of games played in comparison to Sagna. However, the ex-Charlton Athletic man created opportunities over a broader range of locations in the final third, highlighting an attacking contribution that also resulted in a greater number of shots on goal for the 21-year-old.
Perhaps, Sagna should be Arsenal's first choice right-back this season, given he can be solid defensively and has considerable experience too. However, there is clearly room for improvement and the inconsistency he showed at times last season can make him a liability at the back. Sagna must be careful, as Jenkinson has shown in his outings that he can be trusted to venture forward from right-back and defend competently too.
Wenger has a tough decision to make over the next 12 months: does he stick with the tried and trusted Sagna, or further promote the emergence of Jenkinson? Both players are at risk of reduced first-team action, and with the World Cup following the end of the 2013-14 Premier League campaign, both players will want to play as much as possible. The decision is Wenger's.