As with any departure, Bacary Sagna’s abrupt – if not unexpected – move to Manchester City has left a considerable void in Arsenal’s ranks. Not least because quality right-backs seem to be at a premium these days but because Arsene Wenger’s transfer strategy means the short-list of potential replacements is limited.
The Gunners have traditionally recruited fledging stars over established, ageing players and it’s unlikely Wenger will change his tune now. The loss of Sagna, one of their most reliable and consistent performers, is a blow but is just another example of an established player leaving North London. While Wenger needs to concentrate on foraging for a clinical striker during the summer, a new right-back will no doubt also top the bill; Carl Jenkinson has done well as Sagna’s deputy but is not Premier League quality for now.
It would be of little surprise if Wenger looked to Toulouse’s Serge Aurier, who is currently in World Cup action with Ivory Coast. The Frenchman has tended to dip into the Ligue 1 market – with varying levels of success – but question marks are continually raised over the standard of players to move across the channel.
The 21-year-old would be very much a like-for-like replacement for Sagna with his prowess at both ends and considerable presence in the air despite his height. However, he’s not a proven performer at the top level. Seamus Coleman, the Republic of Ireland international, certainly is.
Named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year 2013/14, the Everton man continues to impress on every sighting and was one of the Toffees’ outstanding performers this term; Supporter’s Player of the Year award, as well as a place in the PFA Team of the Year, underlines that. Arguably, Pablo Zabaleta on his day apart, there is no better right-back in the top flight at the moment.
Coleman is currently under contract at Goodison Park until 2018 but should Arsenal come calling – as per reports today – it will be difficult to turn a move down. Coleman is one of the most level-headed, staunch and gentlemanly professionals you’re likely to come across and that’s what makes him so popular. His ability on the field isn’t bad either.
Such is the high regard he’s held in, it would take a bold bid from the Gunners to persuade Everton to cash in and dispense of his services. It’s likely Arsenal would have to give Toulouse £7 million for Aurier and while the French club would be far more willing to listen to offers than Everton, the additional negotiating and funds for Coleman would be worth it. It’s likely it would take at least £12 million to secure his signature.
Coleman is just as comfortable going forward as he is defensively and while his first task will be to prevent goals going in at one end, he offers an added outlet in attack. Roy Keane claimed his fellow countryman had work to do if he was to become the complete player and Coleman has taken heed, considerably improving his defensive prowess over the past six months.
Since moving to England in 2009, for just £60k from League of Ireland side Sligo Rovers, Coleman’s reputation has rocketed and his performance for Ireland last year at Wembley prompted people to ask why he wasn’t in the England team. The 25-year-old netted six times in the league last year as well as creating 45 chances for team mates.
Although reluctant to see the end of Sagna’s seven year stay, Arsenal – should they manage to sign Coleman – would come out of it better off. Yes, Sagna is still a world class operator and arguably in the prime of his career but the capture of Coleman would be a real coup. Manchester United are reportedly also keeping tabs on the Irishman and with other right-backs on the market few and far between, it would be the best piece of business Wenger will have done in a long while.
The Emirates faithful may be a somewhat wary of a young player struggling to bridge the gap in moving to a top four club and managing the weight of expectation a move to a club like Arsenal would bring but despite his tender years, Coleman has an abundance of experience. In comparing him with Sagna, Coleman trumps the Frenchman in all departments from last season. He created more chances, scored more goals, won more tackles and received less bookings but of course, statistics aren’t the be all and end all.
Arsenal are often denounced for their tendency to overplay in the final third and conspicuous lack of width. While Sagna offered an outlet down the right, his crossing often left a lot to be desired and lack of pace meant he rarely troubled the opposition. That’s where Coleman offers a whole different dimension. Regularly deployed as an auxiliary winger when his side are in possession, his direct approach and speed causes no end of problems and having scored six goals last term, he certainly knows where the goal is.
Sagna’s departure may not be as bad as first thought. That, however, depends on whether the Arsenal hierarchy can broker a deal for the Irish international. They should try everything within reason to lure him to the Emirates.