Versatile Sagna the solution to Arsenal’s defensive problems?

Sagna's versatility could solve our defensive crisisHello again and a happy Tuesday to you all.

The Easter breather is over now and it’s time to look ahead to an exciting and intriguing week of football. Indeed, with the return leg against Villarreal on Thursday and a trip to Wembley to play Chelsea on Sunday, it wouldn’t be going too far to say that it will be the defining week of of our season. By Saturday night we could be in the semi-finals of the Champions League and in the final of the FA Cup and even despite our mixed league campaign, it wouldn’t be a bad outcome by any stretch of the imagination.

The bad news going into such a huge week is of course the decimation of our defensive options due to the recent injuries to William Gallas, Gael Clichy and Manuel Almunia as well as Johan Djourou who went off at the weekend. However, despite the unavoidable problems at the back, Arsene Wenger has come out and said that he wants our boys to be positive and play their usual game against Villarreal despite the fact that a clean sheet will see us through. In his own words:

“We want to be decisive but you can only do that if you decide to play in a very positive way. I don’t believe that we are a team who can play for 0-0, that’s not our natural way. I expect some strength from us to say, ‘listen, we have the opportunity to get to the Semi Final at home, let’s take it’.”

Although it’s undoubtedly the type of attitude you want the players to show on Thursday you do have to wonder at what sort of impact the injuries in defence will have. Lukasz Fabianski is still inexperienced and was far from convincing against Wigan while the same could be said of Kieran Gibbs. And while Mikael Silvestre scored on Saturday there was a significant amount of rust on his overall defensive performance.

I feel the manager’s ability to get the balance between experience and talent right at the back will play a huge part in us going through. I’ve had a long, hard think about what I would do in his situation and the best outcome that I could procure was a central pairing of Kolo Toure and Silvestre flanked by Emmanuel Eboue at right-back and Bacary Sagna on the left. All four players have experience in the Champions League and all four players would be comfortable in those positions. For those unaware, Sagna played on the left at times for Auxerre and Wenger has commented on his ability to play anywhere along the back four on more than one occasion.

Although that’s the defensive structure I would go for, the manager does have other options. He might feel Gibbs is up to it and start him on the left, while Alex Song might drop into the centre of defence and push Silvestre out wide. Personally I will be hoping Wenger sticks with Song in the midfield as his performances of late have been too good to ignore and I feel a shift to the back would upset the balance in his game. As always though, the final decision comes down to the manager.

I have to say I’m getting just that little bit excited about the Villarreal game. It’s a contest that we should really win and the thought of making the semi-finals of a competition we’ve never won is very nice indeed. To think that we might be in there and Manchester United and Liverpool both out is perhaps just that little bit nicer, too. Heh heh.

I’ll have a full match preview tomorrow but enjoy yourselves in the meantime and let me know what you think of the defensive situation via the comments.

Have your say on the Arsenal defence going into the Villarreal game by leaving a comment.



  1. well even i would like it but i just dont think that wenger will play eboue at right back!

  2. My thoughts were similar but another option is Eboue, Sagna,Toure, Sivestre

    If posible…I would like Fabregas,Song ,Diaby,Nasri

    AdeB & VP

    Subs: Walcott, Bentner, Manone, Denilson,Gibbs,Ramsey,

    This would allow Cesc to roam anywhere and Theo to come on after 55 mins to go at a tired defence.

  3. what of toure pairing with sagna, eboue on the right and silvestre on the left. i would be comfortable with that. song and denlison to shield the defence. i have the instinct that is wat we will have.

  4. this is Omran from Bahrain…a gooner for life. i agree with you 100%, our back four would look much more solid with Eboue on the right and Sagna on the left. would love it if he starts with Van the man and Nasri as wide midfielders while Ede up front. Of course, Fab, Song & Denilson in the middle of the park…. who knows!!!

  5. Am sure it is going to be a very technical match, not as easy as everyone will like it to be though!
    However, am hopeful that Arsenal will triumph if only because of the fine run and the confidence level of the team now as can be seen in the last few games like the Wigan last saturday.
    One thing that is clear is that Arsenal will create so many chances and if those chances are created early and taken, that will put more pressure on them, allow them to open up, thus freeing more space for Fab and co in the middle to run riot.
    And the biggest, most exciting news is that Senna will not be fit to play?!!!
    What a masterstoke of fortune for Us!!!!

  6. Im not comfortable with Silvestre at CB, he is a natural left back so thats where he should play. Sagna must partner Kolo in central defense imo, he did play in that role sometime last season and he was pretty good. Eboue must play at right back.

    My lineup…

  7. As I know Wenger he always likes to put the young and talented in hard matches, there will be no surprise if the players you mentioned that don’t have that much experience in the UCL will be in the first eleven tonight!

  8. When you think you have no options in the defence area it seems there are lots, with many people going for different pairings. In my opinion we have, Toure, Song, Eboue, Sagna, Gibbs and Silvestre to fill four spaces. Toure has to be in the middle which leaves 5 players to fill 3 positions. Silvestre and Sagna can both play the other central role, whilst Gibbs, Eboue, Silvstre and Sagna can all play on the left or right. My choice would be Sagna, Silvestre, Toure, Eboue. As we are playing at home I would then play Nasri, Song, Cesc, Walcott with Ade and RvP up front, those two changed the game in our favour on Saturday. Come on you Gunners, get a good win which will give us the needed confidence to go in to Saturdays semi against Chelski.

  9. hi spanish fry,
    one request… You are catering to an international readership . So pls refer to the days not by Aussie time and day but by the actual day and time of match. I was foxed to read “Thursday” and “Sunday” and had to recheck with arsenal site just to confirm i dont miss the match !!

  10. AW talks a lot of rubbish sometimes. He didn’t expect Flamini to go but he did not buy a replacement because that would hinder Song and Denilson. If Flamini had stayed then he would have been ahead of them and it is stupidity like this that costs us silverware because we keep on loosing players and AW does not replace them. I have said many times that we have only been short of 2 to 3 players short from mounting and perhaps winning the premiership.

  11. Eboue and Sagna can play RB, so can Toure but he is cemented in the CB place. Silvestre, Toure, Song and Sagna can play CB so AW has choice. Gibbs, SIlvestre and Sagna can play Lb. Sagna can play anywhere. Silvestre was a LB before. I feel he will keep Song in mid, because he has been amazing recently. I feel AW will play: Sagna-Toure-Silvestre-Gibbs. I feel he will go for that and change it if it doesnt work.
    I think AW will pick Deni because he has played in every min of our UCL campaign. I think the whole squad will be:
    Sagna – Toure – Silvestre – Gibbs
    Eboue – Song – Fabregas – Nasri
    Adebayor – Bendtner
    Subs: Mannone/szechsky (however you spell it), Denilson, Ramsey, Wilshere, van Persie, Walcott, Eduardo.

  12. fabianski

    eboue toure silvestre sagna

    walcott cesc denilson Nasri

    ade van p.

    this team = victory for ARSENAL

  13. fabianski

    eboue toure silvestre sagna

    walcott cesc denilson Nasri

    ade van p.

    this team = victory for ARSENAL

  14. We should play…

    – – – – – Almunia

    Sagna – Toure – Silvestre – Gibbs

    Walcott – Cesc – Denilson – Nasri

    – – – van Persie – Adebayor

  15. I’m with you chris and bring on eboue when we go a goal up for walcott(never thought the day I’d be saying that) Didn’t see the wigan game so gibbs in my eyes is still good for his age and I think he won’t be overawed by my man bobby after the 1st game as he drifted in wide a lot. Would proberly see song in the team and ade upfront alone though but with us never losing a cl game at home I think we will do it but with so many defenders out Arsne will be saying in french I’m sure “the best way to defend is to attack”
    Also if anyone loves star wars or snatch movies then check out this link as I haven’t laughed so much since ramos was at spurs.

  16. with the injuries in mind , i think a 4´5´1 formation will be the best option 4 the team. my lineup for wednesday would be, fab,sangna,toure, sly,and give gibbs a chance,(everyone had a bad first half on saturday)song,cesc and deni in the middle,eddy/nasri,walcot/eboue as wingers,ade upfront,with rvp,bendtner,diaby,vela,ramsy on the bench,i think this a sure formula 4 victory.GO GUNNERS;GO ALL THE WAY.

  17. Hi Gunners!
    I don’t care who plays as long he is an arsenal player- & AS LONG AS WE WIN this match.

    God Bless Arsenal.

  18. Diaby is in the squad so that could mean Song goes in to the back 4 with Diaby in the middle.


    Definitely our strongest backline combination. Gibbs is a bit inexperienced for these games and to be honest Song has improved too much in midfield, I would hate to see his improvement stop because of a move to CB – unless absolutely necessary.

  20. i have a feeling that it will be like this:






    COME ON YOU ARSENAL!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. I posted this on another site. Not exactly related. But why not.

    Nominations for PFA Player of the Year and Young player of the year just announced.
    Van de Sar

    Evans (MU)
    Rafael da Silve (MU)

    7 of 12 from Man U!!
    Giggs – appearances 23 (11 starts, 12 as substitute) 1 goal, 6 assists.
    Even Denilson the Arsenal def midfielder has more goals and assists than that! (3 and 7)

    The PFA in its wisdom has not managed to find even 1 place for any of the young talent at Arsenal. No place for Samir Nasri, Walcott or Denilson. Challenging for major silverware with an avg 21 yr old midfield yet no nominations!
    Rafael da Silva has made 11 appearances (2 as sub).
    What a joke.

  22. @ Gunna shah; With our decimated defence, 4-5-1 will be suicidal.

    @Dally; The Wigan game was swung in our favour by dropping Cesc deeper and swiching to 4-4-2. Ade and RVP just added some zip in an ascending team.

    @ Everyone esle who thinks Gibbs had some tough time; Remember how Valencia gave Clichy the run for his money @ the Emirates????

    I am worried about Sylvester more than Gibbs. Even for the reserve games Sylvester played in (That I watched) He always made more errors than anyone else. How many mistakes did Sylvester do compared to Gibbs @ Wigan?!?!

    I think Gibbs should start and Eboue to come in later and swap flanks with Sagna. Actually Eboue is better suited for the LB than Sagna due to the fact that we have used him on the Left of MF.

    We have 5 top class strikers and to play just 1 for the sake of 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1 would be the dumbest thing any manager would do, unless some of the strikers play in MF.

    Denilson’s and Walcott’s subs to me was a clear indication of the two starting tomorrow but I really struggle to accept that with Diaby back, we have a wealth of tallent we will have unused, that is unless Song drops to the CD and with his current form, we will have killer performance tomorrow. When the strikers pegs Villareal back, you have the likes of Eboue, Sagna, Kolo and Song to heap more preassure. As a matter of fact, I believe if we lose both Gallas and Sylvester this summer, Song should drop to CD. Of Diaby, Denilson, and Song, Song is better suited (in ability and style) to push from further back than the rest with the other 2 more productive closer to the goal. With Song/Toure/Djourou at the back, our 3 most creative cms (Cesc, Denilson and Diaby and latter on Nasri will have all the time in the world to plot massacres. Just think with the attacking options at our disposal( RVP, Eduardo, Adebayor, Arshavin,Theo,Bendtner,Vela) and I didn’t even mention Eboue

    Nice call SF.

  23. Correction: Gibbs Had a tough time, but so was Clichy from Valencia last time arround….

  24. good post for tomorw’s game SF, and good to c u agn Taygoon,its been a long time I havnt been here.
    First abt the young Gibbs,Personnaly I dont feel comftbl with his performance,ofcours hes got skills and evrything but I see a bit of a maturity lack in him, ex: 2 times he couldnt get back to his post after a good long run attackin support.Also, he was outrun by an opponent from the wing so Toure shud have come for rescue.Im defntly sure that he will be one of the best left back after some couple of games but the Villareal game wud be a vital game for us so imo rather stick with Silly, who is just gameplay-short but i think he will find his form after some time on the pitch.
    Song has been phenomenal (regardless of his fantastic goal) on the CDM job.Ive always prefered him instead of Deni, and Ive always asked myself why does AW always stick on Deni pairin Song meanwhile we alredy have Fab as an AM?? For me Song is now better than Flaminy (gud luck to him on his Milan venture) and pairin Song with Cesc would be enugh for us in midfld.Playing 4-4-2??? this is where i tottaly agree with u Taygoon, it wud be crazy to play only one player upfront, id rather go for 4-4-2:
    EBOUE-TOURE-SILLY-SAGNA(Switchn Silly and Sagna wudnt also be a huge pbm)

    I see a gud confidence in Song after some months of good performances in the mdfld so to me Its not gud to change his position as it might disturb his recently built confidence.
    This is what i think, but we all know that evrything on God’s hand so we cant predict much on whts gonna happen tmmrw, lets just pray for victory.My biggest worry now is the Chelsea game for the FA cup.
    Comon Gunners!!!

  25. Spanish; Our defensive combination should be like this:

    Eboue Sagna Toure Silly

    Eboue is a very capable rightback. Leftback is Silly’s natural position. Sagna can play CB position where he had played for Auxerre few games and if u guys remember he played half hour against Chelski last season before he got injured. He is real versatile.

  26. What a cracking match between L’pool and Chelsea. 4-4 it ended, Reina and Cech were awful. Chelsea will be very confident going into the Fa cup semi final so its important that we win convincingly tomorrow in order to boost our own morale. We have a fight on our hands on saturday.

  27. @ ramugunner
    Carrick and Mikel are monsters? Are you kidding? Song would walk all over them just like Denilson did earlier this season.
    Posted by Gibbs | April 14, 2009, 1:50 pm

    Here is the answer for you Gibbs. If you have a bit of football knowledge then you should understand why I said Carrick is better than Denilson/Song.

    Michael Carrick:

    Back to back Premier League titles.
    1 Champions League
    1 Club World Championship


    Denilson/Song Combined together:

    Number of league titles: 0
    Number of Champions League: 0

    I agree. Denilson/Song are better.

    Now I know why people like you think Manuel Almunia is in par with Casillas.

    Moreover, Hargreaves is United’s first choice CDM and Carrick is their attacking outlet. Mikel is back up to Essien. I won’t be amazed if football specialists like you say song is better than Essien some day.


    Can’t stop laughing at you…

    Please don’t try to tell that I am a pessimistic. There are a lot of things I am positive about Arsenal. If I criticize few players who I don’t think are good enough for my team doesn’t mean I don’t love my club.

    Keep being a Super-Optimistic-Online fan…

  28. @ ramugunner

    Oh dear. Firstly, no one said anything about Almunia or Cassilas. So wtf are u on about? No one compared Song to Essien either. So thats another stupid point.
    Secondly, Carrick is 28, Song and Denilson are just 21. A person who knows footy wouldnt expect them to have won as many trophies as Carrick at that age.

    I know for a fact that Denilson was all over Mikel and Carrick when we played ManU and Chelsea this season, i also know for a fact that i never said u were a pessimist. So it seems, my good friend like u are the mug.

  29. Id like to point out that Almunia has never put in the type of horrific performance Petr Cech put in tonight… He is pretty overrated considering he was the reason his team lost in the Euro last summer as well… Almunia is consistent but not spectacular… I can live with that

  30. Ya, Cech was terrible today. Hasn’t been a great goalie all seaosn. Reina also made a horrible error. I thought his error for Chelski’s opening goal gave Drogba and Co. to destroy Pool’s chances to win the tie. Drogba is in such a good form I have no idea how we gonna stop them. ‘m already scared to even think about Silly vs Drogba matchup for Saturday.

    Gibbs, I got your point about age of the players. You’re right. But who cares about age? If your league oppositions have better players who can perform on a consistent basis for a season than your young players, then you gonna pay the price. Nobody knows if Denilson and Song will turn out to be good players. All I know is they cannot be a part of a league winning team. They are supposed to be starting Carling cup games, FA cup games and few odd league games.

    Last 2 months, Song has improved a bit and Denilson is getting worse every single game. But every time they face a half decent CDM, they have struggled.

  31. Ramugunner you have a chronic case of “grass is greener” syndrome…

    Mikel is pretty rubbish, Carrick and Hargreaves are definitely overrated and seem to ride on the coat tails of their more succesful colleagues. Also Carrick, Alonso etc are hardly ‘Destroyers’ as you call them, they are closer to Fabregas like players.

    I agree that they have not fully realised their potential but their value must surely be higher than such paper tigers like Mikel and Lucas (who both cost their clubs a lot of money and are bad).

    In the last few months these two, song in particular, have not taken a backwards step and haven’t been outshone by any opposing midfield in my opinion. Up with the Alexandre Song. I think you also forgot to critisize Manuel Almunia in your last post, get it right aye!

    Please reply to this post in full and don’t just argue one point.

  32. I honestly think Carrick is really really underated for united.

    United had gone a couple seasons without the premiership. They knew they needed a midfielder. They splashed out for Carrick. Since then they have won 2 League titles and going on a 3rd straight.

    To me thats a very very good purchase and a player who goes about his business and just does his job. And does it well. In form his passing can be world class.

  33. Can’t believe there’s a debate about Carrick, he’s a great player. His ability to find space and his distribution are top notch. I wish we’d have signed him for 2 million back when we had the chance a couple of years ago, he could’ve been a great addition.

    Don’t know if I’d credit him with helping united win the titles though. I think the coming of age of some kid called Ronaldo played the biggest part in that sorry tale!

  34. Carrick is quality but IMO Denlison will be very similar very soon…

    And dont get me started about Ronaldo- I honestly feel that team would be unstoppable if they had a real superstar not a guy who thinks he is… (Like Ribery…)

    Whats the deal with Djourou? Is he in contention for the weekend?

  35. why are you talking about carrick on a arsenal blog im sure there are plenty of Man U blogs around that would love to hear your opinion on why man u wont the title.

    I hope Man u goes down and Arsenal come up with a 2-0 win and move to face porto in the semis. come on you gunners

  36. @fereria Nasri and Walcott surely should be in for young player of the year. Surely ahead of Rafael and Evans at United. From that list, I’d choose Ireland as the best! He’s been outstanding for City.

  37. Morning Goons. Just saw the PLA nominations on BBC. Some of the picks are surely a disgarce.

    Firstly, 7 Manyoo players in PLA player of the season award. What a domination!

    0 Players from Arsenal, Zero from Chelski and 1 from Liverfool. Oh dear, how come Giggs who has been a substitute most of the games get nominated? Why is Ronaldo there? Is this nomination based on his last year’s performnace. Rooney has been a better player for United than Ronaldo this seaosn.

    Where is RVP who was Arsenal’s best player for 4 consecutive months before Arshavin’s arrival? Nasri, a 21 year old kid who has been awesome for us in his first season was not considered for Young player’s category.
    There is no comparision between United and Fulham defense. Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer has made twice more saves than Van Der Sar conceding just 26 goals. Then why Van der sar?

    Some of the nominations don’t make any sense. Grrr….

    Anyway COYG. Can’t wait to be at Emirates.

  38. @ ramugunner

    Who makes those nominations anyway, what are they based on? I mean Giggs has done nothing this season, he only has 1 goal and a few assists, RvP has 9 goals and 10 assists in the EPL but he’s not even a nominee. BS! Those folks are nothing but biased pricks.

  39. Im seeing a lot of people saying Sagna should play left back. I think Sagna is the better fullback but wont make better use of his left foot like Eboue. Anyway i’d rather play Gibbs there.

    I’m also seeing people talking as if carrick won manu the EPL & CL. He hardly got close to winning it before he went to manu. Carrick was good befroe he went manu, but was not great and is still not. Yes he is better than Denilson, but at 21 was he better, im quite sure in 6 years time denilson will be better than carrick has ever been. Song and carrick are two different players, but im sure if Alex ferguson had Song he would be playing right now, considering hargreaves is injured and Anderson turned out to be just a load of hype.

    Prediction: 3-0 Arsenal

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