Many names have been tossed around in the last two years as potential replacements for Bacary Sagna when he left Arsenal. Sagna’s shoes were a big fill, and it didn’t seem like Carl Jenkinson was going to be ready quite yet. We heard about Serge Aurier, Micah Richards and Callum Chambers. But it was always going to Mathieu Debuchy. It just made too much sense. And the former Newcastle man became Arsene Wenger’s second signing of the summer yesterday, confirming a transfer story that had lost all suspense weeks ago.
Debuchy is as close as it comes to a like-for-like replacement for Sagna at right back. Whether or not he is an upgrade is up for debate, but he is certainly a suitable replacement. The similarities start with the obvious fact that the two of them are French internationals, with Debuchy starting over Sagna at the World Cup. That fact right there should leave Arsenal fans satisfied with the move, even if they are not overly excited. He showed himself well in Brazil, and didn’t look out of place in the quarterfinal against the eventual champion Germany.
But the biggest similarity between the two French right backs is their style of play. At this stage in their careers, both are above average going forward, having the ability to make runs down the flank. And while Sagna might be a better crosser of the ball, Debuchy has a little more pace at the moment. They are also above average defenders, capable of winning balls in the air and defending one-on-one situations. One negative of Debuchy is that he won’t be able to fill in at right back like Sagna could, but that shouldn’t be a factor unless Wenger allows Thomas Vermaelen to leave without replacing him.
Tactically, Debuchy will slot directly into Sagna’s role in Arsene Wenger’s plans. He and Theo Walcott should make for a terrorizing duo on the right, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a majority of Arsenal’s crosses coming from that side once again. With French teammate Olivier Giroud to aim at in the middle, Debuchy should have little trouble fitting in offensively. He might struggle at first with his defending though, as he won’t get much help from Walcott. He’ll have to quickly learn to be extra disciplined so as not to leave himself and Per Mertesacker exposed. Sagna was excellent next to the big German, and it will be vital for Debuchy to develop a good relationship with Mertesacker from the start.
Where Debuchy’s experience could help the most is on Arsenal’s goal kicks. A pattern had developed in recent years of Wojciech Szczesny aiming his kicks at the head of Sagna up the field. And Sagna was pretty good at winning those first balls, getting Arsenal up the field in an efficient manner. Debuchy will offer the same sort of outlet. At Newcastle, the former Lille star won a high percentage of his aerial duels, and he should be able to do much of the same at Arsenal.
And as Debuchy is 28 years old, he’s a known commodity. What you see is what you’ll get. Playing with the pressure that comes from the Arsenal fans sometimes can be tough. But someone who’s been involved in the France national team setup should have no problem with pressure. He’s also had experience playing in the Champions League in the past. And as he’s been in the Premier League for the last 18 months, he should be able to settle in quickly.
I won’t lie. I’m not overwhelmed with excitement over the Debuchy signing. He doesn’t make us title-winning threats all by himself by any means. But Arsenal needed to find a replacement for Sagna and Carl Jenkinson didn’t seem ready. So signing a veteran international who can bring stability to the position while Arsenal search for the right back of the future signing over the next few years makes a lot of sense.
There was a hole at right back, and Arsene Wenger filled it swiftly and appropriately. And while Debuchy obviously won’t bring the same spark to the team that Alexis Sanchez will, he is a valuable signing nonetheless. Arsenal now has a starting lineup that rivals any in the Premiership, and further signings this summer will only serve to strengthen the campaign. I can’t wait to see this team take the field in less than a month.