Bacary Sagna Opinions


Arsenal's FA Cup Loss To Liverpool

Reaction to Arsenal’s home defeat to Liverpool that saw the record FA Cup holders eliminated from the competition in the third round.  

Arsenal had the opportunity to win the game against Liverpool, but they didn’t take their chances. They could have scored from their first attack of the game when Reis Nelson went through, and they missed a succession of chances after that.  

Arsenal was punished by Liverpool. They were in control of the game and created so much. I think they lacked calmness in front of the goal on Sunday – it was an unfortunate result for Arsenal.  

I don’t think the second goal Liverpool scored really mattered; Arsenal was trying desperately for an equaliser and they got caught out in the last minute. They were exposed on the counterattack and Liverpool punished them.  

It was a frustrating result for Arsenal because they will have felt like they created enough chances to win the game.  

It was another match where Arsenal have failed to score despite creating several chances. How can Arsenal address this current lack of ruthlessness up front that has contributed to recent bad results?  

I think Arsenal are suffering from a lack of momentum up front now. You can’t just blame the attacking players; these are the same players that are normally very reliable at finishing off the actions and were doing that earlier in the season when Arsenal was winning games.  

They are still creating chances – the only problem is the finishing. They are not as efficient as they were a few months ago, but they are playing with the same desire, dedication, and effort.  

Ian Wright mentioned that Arsenal are lacking a killer on the pitch to put the ball in the back of the net. Do you agree with him?  

Ian Wright was a great striker for Arsenal so, of course, he would be critical with some of Arsenal’s players not being able to finish off attacking moves at the moment.  

I don’t think it’s all on the attacking players. Yesterday, Odegaard hit the bar, and I think if that goal goes in, the game becomes very different. They conceded an unfortunate own goal from a set piece with ten minutes to go – you have to give credit to the Alexander-Arnold for putting in a magnificent delivery. Then the second goal goes in because Arsenal were exposed going forward.  

Arsenal has the players to score goals – we saw that last year – I just think the team’s momentum is suffering at the moment and things will get better.  

They will be disappointed to have lost the game, but at the same time, it wasn’t a league defeat and that is what Arsenal will need to focus on now. They have time to recover from the defeat and are going to have a mini break to reset. 

Arsenal are still one of the best teams in the country and will be a contender for the Premier League title this season. The team has received a lot of criticism for their recent performances, but every team has had a bad spell this season and dropped points.  

The last few weeks have given Mikel Arteta and the players a little warning. They will be looking to bounce back after the break, and I expect them to be firing in their next match against Crystal Palace and to have a very good second half to the season.   

The team is heading to Dubai for a mini break. As someone that lives there, how will they benefit from this training camp?  

The Arsenal players need a break. This is a great time for them to recover from what has happened over the last few weeks and have a bit of a fresh start.  

The Premier League season is very long. It is draining. It’s really important for players to clear their minds after a busy Christmas period so they can go into the second half of the season with more energy. The Arsenal players are under constant pressure to perform, so they will enjoy the break.  

It’s nice for players to switch off for a few days and enjoy working in a new environment. I’m sure they will all enjoy the warmer weather and an opportunity to spend time together without having to deal with the pressure of playing for a few weeks.  

There is a great football community in Dubai. Football fans will be looking forward to seeing them in the country and its easy to relax here. Waking up with the sun is a blessing that a lot of the players will be looking forward to.  

Arsenal have a lot of challenges ahead of them with the Premier League and the Champions League, so the players will enjoy this break. All players need to have a mental break at some point in the season.

Sagna issues a rallying cry to Arsenal fans for the second half of the season 

I think Arsenal will have a great season. There are some big challenges ahead of the team in the second half of the season and I’m confident that they will be challenging for the title.  

The Arsenal fans need to remember how important they are to the players and to get behind the team when they players come back. 

From a player’s perspective, the fans can have a massive impact on changing the vibe at the club by supporting the team. I can remember many times when I played for Arsenal where the crowd lifted us, and we overturned games we were losing in because of the fans. The impact the fans can have on the team and its performances is massive, so my message to the fans would be keep supporting the players because they are going to need you.  

When the fans are fully behind you, you feel invincible as a player. Fans can put pressure on your opponent, so it’s vital that they keep supporting the club even after they lose games. All teams will lose games, you have to move on. Push the team. Look at what the club has done at the end of the season.

Sagna praises Ramsdale performance against Liverpool 

I want to credit Aaron Ramsdale. He put in a great performance against Liverpool on Sunday. He is a great player and a top-class goalkeeper. It’s important to underline his performance because there has been a lot of talk about him and his Arsenal future.  

He made one brilliant save yesterday. His distribution was good.

Sagna plays down Ivan Toney Arsenal links 

I like Ivan Toney. I think he is a very talented player. It will be interesting to see how he comes back after missing the first half of the season through suspension. 

How will he be able to deal with the physicality of the Premier League after a six-month absence? I know that he has been training, but training and playing in competitive games are very, very different. That would be my only concern if Arsenal were looking at signing him.  

He definitely has the quality (to play for Arsenal). He is a top striker who is strong, holds the ball up well and can score goals. Of course, he has the profile that would be good for Arsenal.  

We shouldn’t forget that Arsenal already have a top striker in Gabriel Jesus. People are always questioning his ability, but I think he is a wonderful player. A lot of people have suggested that Arsenal need to upgrade the strikers they have, but I think sometimes it’s easy to be a little bit disrespectful towards the players that are already in the squad. Arsenal has good strikers. Eddie Nketiah is also a good player that has scored some vital goals for Arsenal.  

A lot of the focus now is on which striker Arsenal should sign in the transfer window. Several big names have been linked with a transfer, but scoring goals is a vibe and is based on confidence. If you give confidence to any player and support him no matter what, he will become a different player. The goals will come. Sometimes you see players have amazing seasons that are one-offs. Why does this happen? It’s the same person. It’s the same boots. It’s the same pitch. It’s the same club. One element is the player’s mentality. For players to perform at their best, they need to be in the best condition mentally and physically. If a player feels the love from the fans, you can see a big difference in their performances.  

At the beginning of the season, Kai Havertz was getting a lot of criticism, but he turned that around because he felt the support of the crowd.

Arsenal spent more than £60m on Kai Havertz, do you think that was a smart transfer? 

I really like Kai Havertz. I think he is a good player with a lot of potential. I think he is a good signing for Arsenal because he is a very versatile player and can play in several positions.  

I think his best role is as an attacking midfielder that has the freedom to move around the pitch. He has the quality to play in a lot of different ways. I see him as a creator; he is very creative with the ball. He is a technical player.  

To get the best out of Havertz, you have to give him the room and the freedom to express himself on the pitch. He played well against Liverpool and created a lot of chances for his teammates.

David Raya appears to be the No.1 goalkeeper, what would you do now if you were Aaron Ramsdale? 

It’s hard for me to say what will happen with Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal. He is the only person that can speak about his future.  

I think that Ramsdale is a top, top keeper. I really like him as a player. Mikel Arteta has to make the decision about who plays in goal; there is only one position, and he has two top players fighting for it.  

I believe that Arsenal has two great keepers, but one of them will always suffer from a lack of game time. Now, Aaron Ramsdale is the player that is missing out and suffering.  

Ramsdale will have to decide with Mikel Arteta and Edu what happens with his Arsenal future. It’s his call. Ramsdale will want to play because he earned the right to be Arsenal’s number one after his performances last season and he will also be thinking about his place in the England squad with the European Championships happening in the summer.  

He is in competition with Raya. It is a tricky situation for him. It can’t be easy to lose your place, but every other player in the Arsenal team must deal with the pressure of having someone that can take their place. That competition makes you become a better player.  

Historically, we haven’t seen many managers work with two top class keepers in a squad, but every other player has to fight for their place in the team. Because this doesn’t happen often, it has created a debate, but people don’t think twice about it if two players were fighting over an outfield position.  

Arsenal have had some issues at full-back in recent weeks, with Oleksandr Zinchenko coming in for criticism, how do you view the defender and is he someone Arteta should look to upgrade on? 

I really like Zinchenko. He is a very technical player that suits Arsenal and offers them a lot when they have possession of the ball and when they are playing out from the back.  

He is another player that has been criticised this season. I don’t understand the criticism. Of course, when you are attacking and Zinchenko goes into the midfield, if you lose the ball, you will be exposed. When you’re asking him to perform that inverted role, then you have to expect that teams will be able to exploit the gaps on the left.  

He is playing exactly the same football as he was last season. The difference is that Arsenal were winning most of their games last season, so nobody was questioning his ability or his performances.  

People always look for a guilty party when a team isn’t performing as well as we know they can. I think for a lot of people, Zinchenko has been that scapegoat this season.  

It’s a huge shame. Last season Zinchenko was celebrated as being a massive part of the reason why Arsenal were so good, and this season, some people are saying that he isn’t good enough.  

When you win, everything is beautiful. When you lose, people will look for players to blame.  

Sagna has total faith in Edu and Arteta transfer business 

I really like what Arsenal have done over the last couple of seasons in the transfer market. I like the fact that Edu was an ex-Arsenal player, so he knows what the club requires in terms of a players’ ability and a players’ personality.  

He understands football, not only business. A lot of the clubs that aren’t that successful in the transfer market have Sporting Directors from the world of business, but Edu is a guy that knows the club inside and out.  

Edu was part of the most successful Arsenal team in history. He knows the identity of the club and knows which players will suit that identify.  

All the players that Edu and Arsenal have signed have been spot on. Take the example of Ben White, Araon Ramsdale, Thomas Partey, they have all been a big success at the club.  

Declan Rice is another player that has been brilliant since he joined. I don’t think that Edu and Arteta have made a mistake since having complete control over the transfers at Arsenal. That is a very difficult to do. All of the players that they have signed have had a big impact at Arsenal.  

When Arsenal identify a player that they want, they know all about them and how they will fit into the team.

Premier League Observations

We’re twenty games into the Premier League season, can you give me your top three defenders and explain why they have impressed you so far this season? 

William Saliba. He has been having a very good season for Arsenal again. Virgil van Dijk looks like he is back to his best for Liverpool. Ruben Dias at Manchester City has also played well. These are my three favourite defenders in the league. 

I like these players because all of them take responsibility on the pitch. All of these players are not afraid to take on one-on-one challenges and they normally win all of their duels. You will rarely see a striker get the better of any of the players that I have mentioned. 

These three players have everything that you would look for in a modern central defender. They don’t mess around with the ball or overcomplicate things when they have the ball; when they have to clear their lines, they do it. They make the right decisions at the right moment. If they can play out from the back, then they will, but sometimes you can’t always play out from the back. 

They are strong. When they have to win an aerial challenge, they win it. When they have to use their body strength, they do it. They are all natural defenders and the leaders of their teams defence. 

Have any teams, managers or players surprised you this season? 

I haven’t been really impressed by any particular team this season – there hasn’t really been any surprises in the Premier League. 

What we’re seeing in the Premier League is an exceptional level. All of the teams have quality and the difference between the teams is decreasing every season. Every team is capable of beating each other. I think that is remarkable and is one of the reasons why the Premier League is the best league in the world. 

The teams in the Premier League are at such a high level that any in the bottom ten could play any the biggest clubs from around Europe and give them a really tough game. 

The smaller teams are closing the gap on big teams like Manchester United, Chelsea and even Manchester City. There isn’t a big four or five teams anymore. All of the teams try to play good football and play out from the back. 

Brighton were magnificent last year, but I wasn’t surprised by their performances because I played under Roberto De Zerbi and knew what he would bring to the team. I said that many times last season. 

There are so many great managers in the Premier League and that has made it even more competitive. De Zerbi is a great coach. Arteta is a great coach. Ten Hag is a good coach. Guardiola is the best in the world. Klopp is an amazing coach. Eddie Howe, I really like the way he coaches his team, so you have so many great managers competing and making a difference. Every single team has a coach that lives football. 


Have you been surprised by what Chelsea are doing this season? Do you think they have improved under Mauricio Pochettino? 

I think Chelsea are loading (laughs). I think it will take time for them to challenge for the Premier League title because they have so many young players. 

They are a team that are more advanced than they were last year. I think it’s normal to see them struggling in certain games. They are a team that is developing at the same time, and young players will take time to adapt. 

They remind me a little bit of Arsenal from three years ago. Arsenal put a lot of faith in young players, and it took time for them to gel and turn into a team that was capable of challenging for the title. 

The strategy is to invest in the future. They are giving up two, or three seasons without challenging for the big trophies to rebuild the team. In the future, they will have a team that is ready to challenge for the title. 

It’s nearly a year since the club signed Mykhailo Mudryk from under the noses of Arsenal. I know that he is a player that you admire a lot – how would you assess his first year at the club and do you expect him to come good for Chelsea? 

I expect Mudryk to fulfil the promise he has at Chelsea and develop into a world-class player. For me, he is already a top, top player. 

He joined the club when there were a lot of problems. There was a lot of negative energy at Chelsea and the players were suffering from a lack of confidence. 

It’s not easy for a young player to come to a new club in a new country and perform straight away. It is even more difficult to do that when you join a club for a huge amount of money. People expect players that cost £100 million to win games on their own, but football doesn’t work like that. 

He joined a team that had no confidence. It would be unrealistic for people to think that he would be Chelsea’s saviour. Football is a vibe, and you need all of your players to be in a good place to get the best out of them. 

I think Mudryk’s performances are getting better. He is starting to adapt to the league and is improving with every game. He needs time to develop but he has shown some encouraging signs this season. 


After Jurgen Klopp rebuilt his midfield and several significant departures in the summer, are you surprised to see Liverpool leading the table at the moment? Did you think they would be Premier League contenders this season? 

Liverpool are having a great season and deserve to be at the top of the Premier League. Last season was challenging for them, especially after being at the top for so many years. The team needed to evolve, and some big players moved on in the summer. 

Liverpool are used to competing for the Premier League and Champions League. They had to rebuild in the summer and have been making progress, taking the right steps. They look like a much better team than last season. 

Watching them against Arsenal on Sunday, I saw a good team. Defensively, they were very good. I think Ibrahim Konate is starting to show his true quality. Van Dijk looks like he is coming back to his best. 

Liverpool have all of the ingredients that you need to win the title. They look like they can deal with the absences of key players – they beat Arsenal without Mo Salah and Van Dijk – I see them in a much better shape than last season. 

I was confident that they would be challenging for the title this season. I knew that Liverpool would deliver because when you look at the players they signed in the summer and the football they are playing, everything looks better (than last season). 

Manchester City

Manchester City were recently crowned Club World Cup champions. How much of a boost do you think lifting that title will give the club in the second half of the season as they look to become the first team in Premier League history to win for titles in a row? 

Wow! The City players will be absolutely flying after being crowned Club World Champions. They will feel like giants. Winning trophies abroad, being so successful, doesn’t necessarily translate into the Premier League, so I’m not sure how much of a positive impact that will have on their Premier League performances. 

You have to realise that when Manchester City play in the Premier League, every match is like a cup game because every time they play, the opponent is desperate to beat them. In England, City are the team to beat. Their season is more difficult than any other club’s season because teams are looking to cause an upset and the players give more. 

Every weekend for Manchester City is tough. The Premier League is a different competition for them. We all know how difficult the Premier League can be. Some players will raise their level when they play City, or they become a lot more aggressive. They want the prestige of beating them. 

Kevin de Bruyne has been spotted on the Manchester City bench recently and is expected to make his return to the team soon. After missing half a season of football, do you think Manchester City’s rivals need to be frightened of a fired-up De Bruyne looking to prove a point in the second half of the season? 

Kevin de Bruyne will need a little bit of time to get back to his level because he has set a very high bar over the last few seasons. De Bruyne is such a fantastic player – his average is better than most players in the league – so of course, he will make a difference when he comes back. 

He is an exceptional player. He is different. If he comes back to his top level in the second half of the season than teams will need to be worried because he has the quality to hurt you. His return to the team will only have a positive impact on Manchester City. 

With De Bruyne set to return, Haaland on the way back and Doku and Stones close to being ready, do you think anyone will be able to stop Manchester City from retaining their Premier League title this season? 

When all of these players come back, teams will be even more frightened of Manchester City. Their title rivals will be worried because we’re talking about some of the best players in the world becoming available again. 

Can anyone stop Manchester City from retaining their Premier League title? On a good day, I don’t think anyone can stop them. Let’s be honest, we’re talking about the best team in the world. 

Teams can stop them – we’ve seen that this year – but it is very, very difficult to do it. They are such a smart team. They can create chances out of nothing. 

Haaland has the ability to score goals in any scenario. De Bruyne, when he has the ball, you think you have closed him down and shut off his passing lanes, but he will find the killer ball in almost any situation. He makes the difference. 

City have agreed a deal for Argentine wonderkid Claudio Echeverri, who will join the club in the summer. The club has pedigree when it comes to signing players from South America and this guy has been labelled the next Lionel Messi. Can you tell us anything about him? 

I know that Claudio Echeverri is considered one of the brightest talents to come out of Argentina. He is the most exciting young player in the country and people have high hopes for him. 

People have likened him to Lionel Messi, but he reminds me more of Sergio Aguero. He is a rising star and part of the next generation of exciting South American talent. 

Echeverri is a wonderkid. I think he will do well at Manchester City because he will be working with the best coach in Pep Guardiola and also some of the world’s best players. 

Manchester City always target the right players. They rarely make mistakes in the transfer market. I think they will develop the player well and he will develop quickly working with the players at Manchester City. For a youngster like him, it will be easier for him to adapt to the Premier League because of the quality of his teammates. Whenever he receives the ball, he will have more freedom because of the players he will be playing with. He is a very bright prospect that will flourish at Manchester City. 

Manchester United

Manchester United are having a poor season by their standards. They have received a lot of criticism this season, which is fair then you look at the performances. 

Some of the players haven’t been playing at the level we know they are capable of. When you look at some of the players on the pitch and the team – there are a lot of big names there – but they haven’t been delivering. 

Manchester United are one of the biggest clubs in the world. People will always compare the players in this team to the best players that have worn the United shirt. They will always compare the manager to Sir Alex Ferguson. That is human nature, but that is also the pressure of playing or managing a club like Manchester United. 

That era has gone. This is a new period, and I don’t think that it is fair to compare these players to those legends from Manchester United’s past. It is the same for Chelsea. It is the same for Arsenal. These clubs had such big players – they had legendary players that won a lot of trophies. These players will always be in the hearts of the fans, but this is a different time and period. 

People need to adapt to the new team. You can’t compare this Manchester United team to any of the teams that shone so brightly under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson. It’s not easy for the players to keep moving forward and to deal with the comparisons, but that is what happens when you play for a big club. 

Have you been surprised by Erik ten Hag’s reluctance to use Raphael Varane this season? 

I am surprised by Raphael Varane’s limited amount of game time at Manchester United this season. I know Varane well; I know his qualities and what he can give to the team. He is a leader. He has won so many trophies.

When you lose your place in the starting line-up and your replacement plays well, it is always difficult to regain your place in the team. It also makes the manager’s decision to pick you harder. 

There can be no questions about his ability as a player and his quality. I think he is still one of the top central defenders in the world. I still think that Raphael Varane can play a massive role at Manchester United this season and is one of Erik ten Hag’s most important players. 

Latest Transfer Rumours

Chelsea’s Connor Gallagher continues to be linked with an exit from the club despite playing a key role so far this season. Tottenham and Bayern Munich are reportedly interested in the England international – do you think this is a move that could happen and would either club suit the player? 

It’s difficult to understand Gallagher’s level when he has been playing for a Chelsea team that has been struggling for the last twelve months. I think in this period where the club haven’t been doing very well, he is one of the few players that has stood out and played well. I think he has been one of Chelsea’s better performers. 

I think he did well with Crystal Palace when he was on loan there. He has done well with Chelsea and deserves some credit for that because Chelsea have had so many problems. I would love to see him playing for Chelsea regularly. 

There is plenty of room for improvement, but he has been preforming well. I think he is maturing and has benefitted from the experience of playing regularly on loan. 

If I was Gallagher, I would resist a move and keep developing at Chelsea. The manager trusts him because he has captained the club on several occasions this season. I know that the club may want to sell him to raise money, but if I was him, I would stay. I think he is developing nicely at Chelsea. 

We all know that Kylian Mbappe’s contract is coming to an end in the summer. He recently mentioned that he hasn’t decided on his future yet, which has seen a host of top Premier League clubs linked to his signature. How much of a statement of intent would it be for a Premier League club to sign the superstar player and do what do you think the future holds for the France captain? 

I would love to see Kylian Mbappe playing for Arsenal! I think that transfer is almost impossible, but it would be crazy. Can you imagine Kylian Mbappe playing for Arsenal? 

I think he will be a very expensive transaction for Arsenal, but he would be such an amazing signing. Because of his age, he would get along with all of Arsenal’s younger players and the crowd at The Emirates stadium would love him. 

He would be a great addition to the Premier League. I can see him in the red and white of Arsenal – he would look good in that jersey – but I think he will go to Real Madrid. 

Real Madrid is one of the club’s that represents something very special in the football world. Only the very best players get to play for Real Madrid. They are one of the most important and prestigious clubs in the world with a very exciting young team. I think they will be the club that captures Mbappe. 

Roberto Firmino is apparently unhappy in Saudi Arabia and looking for a return to the Premier League. Fulham have been linked with his signature – do you think that other Premier League clubs would be interested in capturing him if he became available? 

I think a lot of a Premier League clubs would be interested in Roberto Firmino if he wanted to leave the Saudi Pro League. 

He would be a good signing for a lot of teams. I don’t think he would make the difference at a top, top club in England because, unfortunately, when you go and play in a league that has a slower pace with less intensity, it resets the body. For Firmino, it will be very difficult for him to reach the physical level required to play for one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs. 

The Saudi League is a lot less demanding than the Premier League, so he will have lost certain physical habits. I think clubs that are looking for a striker should have an eye on him if he becomes available. 

Radu Dragusin and Jean-Clair Todibo have been linked with moves to the Premier League, with the strongest rumours concerning Tottenham. What can you tell us about both players, and do you think they would be suited to life in England? 

I think that Dragusin and Todibo are both good defenders that would suit the Premier League. I watch a lot of Italian football, and Dragusin is one of the players that has stood out for me. He has a good ability to defend, and he is very strong. Tottenham need cover in central defence. They need to improve their squad with better players, so I think he would be a good acquisition. 

Tottenham have enough quality going forward, but, defensively, they look a little short. They need more additions to help build a fortress because we know that they can hurt teams when they attack. You have to keep building in football. Sometimes footballers can get a bit complacent; sloppy. You need competition for places to raise the level and I think that Romero and Van de Ven would improve with better competition in the Tottenham squad.

Competition increases passion in a squad. As a player, you feel the danger of losing your spot in the team and you start to come to training a little bit earlier. You want to make sure that the manager is picking you. This has a knock-on effect, and everyone increases their level. 

Kalvin Phillips has been given Pep Guardiola’s blessing to find a new club. His preference is a move abroad with Juventus linked, where do you think he will end up and what advice would you give him about moving to Italy? 

Juventus is one of the biggest clubs in Europe. They are an institution in football and it would be difficult for any player to turn down the opportunity to play for them. 

The Italian league is very different from England, the pace is not the same. You have a lot of quality players, but the football is very different; more tactical. 

Phillip’s is a typical English footballer. He likes to fight; he plays with a lot of intensity in fast-paced games. Will he be able to adapt to a different style of football? Will he enjoy a different style of football as much? 

If he went to Juventus, then it might be difficult for Kalvin Phillips to adapt. I can understand the appeal of moving to Juventus, but I’m not sure if it would be the best move for him if he wanted to hit the ground running straight away. 

Juventus have some amazing players; they are a very good team. I think Phillips has the ability to play in Italy, but experience has shown us that not many English players leaving the Premier League and adapting well to a new league in Europe. 


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