How does Arsenal target Mathieu Debuchy fare against Europe’s best right-backs?


Bacary Sagna’s decision to join Manchester City on a free transfer this summer has left Arsenal in need of a new right-back. The France defender was superb for Arsenal throughout his time at the Emirates, and the club must now replace his experience and quality.

It initially seemed that Arsene Wenger’s main target to replace Sagna was the Ivory Coast’s Serge Aurier, and the club had tracked the powerful 21-year-old for some time.

However, the Gunners have now switched their sights to Mathieu Debuchy, who already has Premier League experience with Newcastle. A fee of £8 million is believed to have been agreed between the two clubs, and the deal is expected to be completed in the coming days. There has been a mixed reaction to the news from Arsenal fans, so we have compared Debuchy to the league’s best right-backs to see how he fares.

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Bacary Sagna may not have been the most dynamic full-back in an attacking sense, but Arsenal were always able to count on him defensively. Wenger will want that same dependability from his replacement, and Debuchy actually fared better than Sagna in tackles won, aerial duels, interceptions, and blocks per 90 minutes last season.

In fact, with the exception of tackles per 90, his stats in all of those categories are better than Pablo Zabaleta, Seamus Coleman, and Branislav Ivanovic as well. Zabaleta only just edges ahead of Debuchy in tackles per 90, with 2.69 to 2.57.

Debuchy’s defensive stats are very impressive, but he is playing at a lower level than the other four players in the Comparison Matrix. At Newcastle, he is required to defend more than the others, which could be the reason his defensive stats seem so high in comparison.

In order to see how he does at a higher level, we’ve compared him with the right-backs of other nations that reached the World Cup quarter-finals.

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Again, he does very well, coming out well on top in both tackles and aerial duels won per 90 minutes. He is only just behind Brazil’s Dani Alves in terms of interceptions, and he is fourth out of the five defenders in blocks per 90, though this could be a consequence of France’s comparatively easy group.

While Arsene Wenger has always like his right-backs to play more conservatively to his left-backs, contributing to the attack is an essential part of the modern full-back’s role. Sagna was competent in an attacking sense, and he did greatly improve with his delivery from wide areas last season, but Debuchy has slightly better stats going forward. The Newcastle man creates 0.83 chances per 90 to Sagna’s 0.24, and 0.58 successful take-ons to 0.24.

Debuchy may have played ahead of Sagna for France, but it remains to be seen if he will be an upgrade at Arsenal. His stats suggest that he would be a good replacement, but Sagna was vital to Arsenal for a number of reasons, not all of which can be reflected with statistics.

Wojciech Szczesny tended to aim his goal kicks at Sagna, because the City-bound defender has an outstanding aerial leap and wins most of his aerial duels. Theo Walcott doesn’t offer much in the way of defensive cover, but Sagna was almost always able to cope, allowing the pacy winger to concentrate on causing damage to the opposition. Per Mertesacker’s lack of pace is well documented, but he was rarely exposed thanks to Sagna’s excellent positioning.

There are plenty of reasons why Sagna will be missed, but Debuchy’s form at the World Cup shows that he can play at the highest level, and his numbers suggest there are reasons for Arsenal fans to be hopeful about his likely arrival.

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Daniel Anwar


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