Arsenal’s FA Cup victory was expected to be the catalyst for several changes within the club in the coming months and years. After a nine-year trophy drought, they finally have that monkey off their back. They have the money. They have the manager who is staying. They have the stadium that is nearly debt free, and now they even have the silverware. They suddenly look like an attractive club all over again. Everything feels new for Arsenal Football Club.
Except one thing. They still have players leaving them and joining their direct domestic rivals, namely Manchester City. They have been powerless and unsuccessful in arresting these migrations. Kolo Toure started it. Emmanuel Adebayor and Gael Clichy followed. Samir Nasri went too. When the transfers from the Emirates to the Etihad began, the motive seemed to be one and only one: a better paycheck. The money being pumped in from the Middle East turned these players’ heads from Arsenal, who were unable to match the money being offered by City.
Now, despite Arsenal looking in good stead for next season, they are poised to lose another key player to Manchester. Bacary Sagna has confirmed that he will be leaving Arsenal, and City is touted as the most likely destination with the move expected to be finalized in the coming weeks. It looks like history is repeating itself. He rejected Arsenal’s increased contract offer of £80,000, and looks set to pocket £150,000 from the league champions.
On paper, it looks like a selfish, monetary move fueled by personal satisfaction. The legacy and respect of Sagna at Arsenal is in danger of being eroded by his decision. Disgruntled fans claim that he is just another Nasri, but a decent argument can be made as to why he is not so.
Yes, Arsenal have come through a torrid nine years of transition; and there are many instances when people abandon a sinking ship and move on elsewhere. Sagna has done anything but that. He has stuck with the club at a time when they have lost the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song and Robin van Persie among others. He has done his bit for the club in showing his loyalty and commitment, and perhaps he cannot be blamed for being upset about the fact that Arsenal did not tie him down to a new deal long ago rather than leaving it for the last few months. It would only be fair that the club do their bit too and honor his wishes.
In addition, Sagna is currently 31, and entering the last few years of his playing career. Had he stayed, Arsenal would not have been able to get more than two to three years out of him. From a logical standpoint, paying a weekly salary of £150,000 for a 31-year-old right-back makes no sense whatsoever. With a certain Pablo Zabaleta waiting to compete with him for the spot, it is a given that Sagna will not be playing every week at City. If he wishes to earn as much fortune as he can even while sitting on the bench, his decision must be accepted and respected by the Arsenal fans.
Lastly, the circumstances in which he is leaving are much different than what they were when Nasri, Adebayor and Van Persie left. Arsenal fans will not forget Adebayor’s goal celebration back in 2009, nor will Nasri and van Persie’s comments about Arsenal’s lack of ambition be forgotten in a hurry. On the other hand, Sagna only had good words for Arsenal as he said, “It was an honor to grow in the shirt.”
“Arsenal is a club that brought me a lot, both as a person and as a sportsman,” Sagna said. “Even though we had been criticized for quite some time due to the lack of trophies, I spent some magical moments (at Arsenal). If I had to do, I’d do it again.”
Yes, he is joining a direct rival. Yes, he will be team-mates with the players who believe Arsenal lack ambition. Yes, he will face the Gunners next season. But keeping everything in perspective, what he has done for Arsenal deserves to be repaid; and the only way to repay it would be to wish him luck and success on his new venture with Manchester City.