Arsenal right-back Bacary Sagna has yet to extend his contract, so should manager Arsene Wenger target Reims' Aissa Mandi as a potential successor to Sagna? To cover that hypothetical, here is a scouting report on Mandi, a 22-year-old Algerian international.
"I still consider myself as an Arsenal player at present," Sagna said, per Europe1 (h/t ESPN). "But actually we had a small problem to agree with the club, and I don't think I'll stay at Arsenal at the end of the season."
Wenger is taking the stance of: "What can you do for me in the future?"
Meanwhile, Sagna's argument for a substantial salary increase is what he has done in the past.
The treatment of Sagna reinforces the view that youth is more valuable than meritocracy in Wenger's eyes.
"The ball is not in our camp anymore," Wenger said, per Hannah Duncan at the Metro. "It is in his [Sagna's] camp, and he needs to come back to us."
It must be a frustrating feeling for Sagna, a 31-year-old French international, who dedicated seven seasons to Arsenal yet is being strong-armed in getting the money he believes he deserves.
He was a world-class right-back, suffered two leg breaks, bounced back to become a reliable player, but it is meaningless in the big picture.
Age discrimination in football is innate because younger players have a higher upside and lower wages than an established veteran such as Sagna.
Mikel Arteta, Arsenal's 32-year-old defensive midfielder, spoke out against the club's age-centric stance.
"I understand the club's point of view, 'Mikel is not a £25 million player because he is not 22 any more' but I know what I can give," Arteta said, per John Cross at the Mirror. "For me, a much bigger asset is someone who has played over 125 games in three years compared to someone who has played 25 and is 20."
In Mandi's last three seasons, he has played 87 league games for Reims, so he has a track record for Wenger to build upon.
Coincidentally, "Sagna made 87 appearances over the past three seasons for Auxerre," per Matt Law at the Daily Express, when he arrived at Arsenal for £7.5 million in 2007.
Mandi is an assertive tackler, is ultra-competitive and possesses superior physical tangibles to Sagna.
|Weight||172 lbs||159 lbs|
Mandi has played at right-back and left-back for Reims, and there is no discrepancy in his work rate or defensive productivity.
Mandi intercepted six passes against Evian Thonon Gaillard from right-back, per Squawka.com, and was perfect in his tackle success percentage (six-for-six) against Lille from left-back, per Squawka.com.
Mandi is a proactive defender and is a more prolific ball-winner than Sagna.
|Tackles Per Game||3.1||1.7|
|Interceptions Per Game||2.1||1.5|
|Fouls Per Game||1.4||0.7|
|Tackles Per Foul||2.3||2.5|
|Yellow Cards/Red Cards||2/1||6/0|
While Mandi lacks the natural attacking flair of Toulouse right wing-back/centre-back Serge Aurier, there is promise.
This was on show with a well-worked one-two leading to Mandi hitting the post against Guingamp.
Against Saint-Etienne, Mandi raided left-back Jonathan Brison's flank, dragged centre-back Loic Perrin out of position, and found Reims centre-forward Gaetan Charbonnier with an incisive pass.
Mandi read the play of Reims central midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak, was in position to receive his teammate's back-heel and then whipped in a ball to Reims central midfielder Prince Oniangue, who finished past Evian goalkeeper Jesper Hansen.
Mandi needs to refine his passing because his completion percentage (73.8) would rank as the third lowest for an Arsenal outfielder.
He is often wasteful in the attacking half hence why he misplaces 86.4 percent of his crosses.
He is susceptible to mental errors like a baffling own goal against Paris Saint-Germain or moving away from goal, which enabled Evian substitute Zakariya Abarouai to get off a clean shot.
Mandi must remove the unnecessary roughness in his game.
Last season, he followed through on Nice centre-back Nemanja Pejcinovic and this season, Mandi axe-kicked Monaco left-back Layvin Kurzawa.
When Sagna defends, he is composed, retains correct positioning and is a calculated tackler.
Whereas, Mandi is frenetic, gung-ho, off-the-cuff and reckless.
It works to his advantage against timid players, but he will be found wanting against craftier opponents.
Then Lyon (now Napoli) right-back Anthony Reveillere skipped past Mandi, who telegraphed his slide tackle, thus exposing Reims' defence.
Mandi is still a work in progress.
He is the seventh-highest rated player at Reims, per France Football, therefore he is not even one of the best players on his team, let alone one of the premier defenders in Ligue 1.
You assume the phrase: "Nothing personal, it's just business," may have been uttered to Sagna several times when he was given what he considers an insulting final offer.
Mandi is a more productive ball-winner than Sagna and has registered the same amount of total goals (goals and assists combined; three) this season.
While not the best right-back option available, Mandi should be on Arsenal's long list of potential Sagna successors.
Statistics via WhoScored.com