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Jul 8, 2014

Debuchy would be suitable replacement for Sagna

France international Mathieu Debuchy has been strongly linked with a move to Arsenal.
France international Mathieu Debuchy has been strongly linked with a move to Arsenal.

Bacary Sagna was a popular figure at Arsenal throughout his seven year tenure, and after moving to Manchester City on a free transfer, there's a fear that manager Arsene Wenger will struggle to replace his quality and reliability.

It appears that Newcastle United's Mathieu Debuchy is the man chosen to do the job, and a quick comparison of the two players shows similarities in terms of what they produce. Looking at last season's Premier League, we can draw some comparisons. For the record, Sagna played 35 games, Debuchy 29.

- Report: Arsenal 'close in on Sanchez, Debuchy'
- Report: Liverpool give up hope of signing Sanchez
- Report: Debuchy confirms Arsenal talks

Their defensive contributions see the Newcastle man come out on top. Debuchy has made 71 tackles to Sagna's 45, has 69 interceptions to Sagna's 51 and wins out on blocks with 12 to seven. A good start.

Offensively, they both scored one goal each, Sagna had two assists while Debuchy had three and the chance creation again saw the Newcastle defender come out on top with 23 to 21.

So far, so good. However, a quick look at a key stat shows Debuchy's pass completion rate at just 73 percent, while Sagna's was 85 percent. Arsenal are a team that looks to dominate possession, and while perhaps it's illustrative of carelessness in Debuchy's distribution, there may be other factors.

At Arsenal he's much more likely to find an outlet with players capable of clever movement, so it's a small concern but definitely something that can be improved. It's also worth noting that Sagna was clearly more cautious, playing 791 backward passes compared to Debuchy's 267. He may have been under instruction to get it forward, or didn't have a centre-half like Per Mertesacker, who was always available to Sagna if he had to turn back.

One of Arsenal's tactics over the last couple of seasons -- especially as they've lacked height in midfield -- is to aim the goal kicks towards the right hand side for Sagna to win. His aerial ability at the back, and in open play, has been valuable for Wenger's team. So how do they match up there?

Sagna comes out on top, but just barely, with 119 successful aerial duels won to Debuchy's 111. It suggests that the new man's arrival isn't going to create a big issue for Wenger tactically, in regards to figuring out how to replace Sagna's aerial prowess.

General discipline is an area to look at, however. Debuchy picked up eight yellow cards and one red card, committing 41 fouls throughout the campaign. Sagna may have been booked a relatively similar number of times (six), but he committed just 23 fouls, so that's something Debuchy would have to work on.

While we can compare and contrasts stats, we know that can only tell us so much. Add the opinion of somebody who watched Debuchy week in and week out for Newcastle, and we get a better picture of the player.

Ed Harrison, of NUFCblog.com, is sad to see him go, saying, "He was one of [the] best players last season. He's only been at the club 18 months -- and since he gives 100% in every game and has a great temperament -- most of our fans will be sad to see him leave."

He highlights a positive attitude going forward but says, "Mathieu goes forward so much that he sometimes gets caught upfield and out of position. When he started out on Tyneside he was also a bit reckless with some of his tackles inside the box and gave away a couple of penalties.

"But he improved a lot in the 18 months he was at [the] club, and he's a much better player than when [the club] initially signed him."

Overall, it looks like Arsenal are getting a player who, at 28, is very much in the prime of his career, and one whose performances appear to be on an upward curve. Having played in England since January 2013, there's no issue of acclimatisation or adaptation, and he should fit right in at the Emirates.

There are clearly one or two things about his game that can be improved. But under the tutelage of Wenger, and with the defensive nous of Steve Bould on the training ground, there's no reason why Debuchy can't be a success for the Gunners.

His arrival might be accompanied by that of Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez. Although there's nothing concrete just yet, there's a growing belief that he'll join from Barcelona, and what a signing he would be. If and when it happens, it's something that can be looked at in more detail, but he would pretty much be the perfect capture.

He adds pace, strength and goals. He can play wide, off a main striker, or even as the front man and his versatility, as well as his quality, is obviously something that has attracted Wenger. Fingers crossed, but it looks like it could be an excellent start to Arsenal's summer business.

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