Analysing Manchester City's Rumoured Pursuit of Bacary Sagna

Alex Gruber@agruber6Featured ColumnistMay 20, 2014

Manchester City's offseason is now well and truly underway after their friendly victory over Emirates-based Al Ain last week. As such, the club's attentions must now be turned to the transfer market as they look to supplement their title-winning roster ahead of next season.

Per the rumor mills, Arsenal's exiting right-back Bacary Sagna may soon be the first such addition to the City ranks.

According to the Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel, the 31-year-old France international—whose contract with the Gunners expires next month—may be handed a rather hefty £150,000-a-week salary.

But is this a smart move for Manuel Pellegrini and company?

On the surface, it certainly looks a reasonable piece of business. While Sagna will not likely displace Pablo Zabaleta as a full-time starter any time soon, he brings loads of experience to spell the Argentine in busy parts of the schedule such as when the Champions League fixtures roll through.

For reference's sake, check out this comparison between the two created via Squawka.

In looking just at those basic stats, it's clear that Zabaleta has the upper hand in some of these key categories. Again, though, a free move for Sagna would be little more than an insurance policy for the Argentine—a solid one, at that, but still just a rather expensive deputy.

And if he's going to be a deputy, it'll be important for him to actually be available for selection.

Luckily, Sagna enjoyed a season free of the major injury woes that blighted the previous two seasons, featuring in 35 league games for Arsenal. It was a surely a sight for sore eyes at the Emirates Stadium, as he teamed up with Per Mertesacker and compatriot Laurent Koscielny to form a terrific defensive trio.

At City, should his services be required, he'd feature alongside the likes of Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis and another Frenchman in former Arsenal teammate Gael Clichy.

Not a bad swap at all, frankly.

So what would Sagna bring to Eastlands? The minds over at note his strengths as including aerial ability—despite standing just 5' 9" tall—and passing.

His 85 percent passing rate would attest to that, and the solid link-up play with the likes of yet another international mate and former Gunner, Samir Nasri, would be a great addition to the already potent City attack.

While the stats cited in that Squawka graphic earlier might not jump off the page, they don't necessarily have to.

He's not quite as reckless as Zabaleta, tallying just six yellow cards in all competitions compared to the Argentine's 13, an assuredness that can help him get back more easily on potential counters.

There are a few negative aspects to consider with signing Sagna, though.

First off is the age element. At 31 years old, he's by no means past it and wouldn't be the oldest guy in the City defense—Demichelis is 33—but he's certainly on the wrong side of the general career slope. Factor in his leg breaks in recent seasons and his health may be of some concern to City brass.

Another important factor revolves around the idea of Sagna being a backup. Maybe at his age, he'd be okay with it. Maybe just being on City with a bunch of old Gunners teammates—all of whom he's played with for France as well—chasing title after title will be a big enough reward.

But maybe he'll want more playing time.

As mentioned earlier, it's hard to see Zabaleta giving up much playing time after the two seasons he's had. That might be frustrating for a guy who's played regularly at the highest levels for so long.

Plus, are City willing to fork over £150,000 a week for a guy who won't play that often? Obviously, City aren't the most frugal club in the world, but with UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations looming over them, the club stated last week:

The wage bill of the whole club (playing and non-playing staff) for 2014-15 will need to remain at the same level as that of 2013-14 season. It is important to note that additional bonuses for performances can be paid outside this number. Importantly, in reality, the existing MCFC business plan sees a natural decline in that wage bill.

So while transfers will certainly be in order, they'll have to take care with how they ration out the cash. The balance between high fees and high wages can be a tricky one sometimes. Even if Sagna comes for no upfront cost, paying him what he wants might not be in the "existing plan."

Finally, there exists another club a few miles away that might have some say in where the defender ends up.

Yes, Manchester United are also being linked to chasing Sagna's signature. According to The Independent's Charles Reynolds, Louis van Gaal is seeking to pip Pellegrini to the signing while citing a much lower £100,000-a-week wage package offered by City.

At United, Sagna's competition would be Rafael, who is not quite at the same caliber as Zabaleta. As such, he might be likelier to see a healthy amount of playing time.

This might just be a deciding factor in his decision, meaning City would have to look elsewhere.

One such backup plan already exists at the club in the form of Micah Richards. The academy product, though frozen out by a combination of injury woes and Zabaleta's form, turns just 26 years old this summer and still has his best ahead of him.

Perhaps he'd look to realize that somewhere else, and that might be best for him, but City can still provide him with opportunities.

Indeed, Bleacher Report's Dom Farrell recently proposed a full-time switch to the center of defense. He's looked solid there at times and can provide useful, versatile cover in sticky situations.

In the end, as Sky's James Cooper notes, Richards looks likely to lead a long line of English players out the Etihad's door. Due to the Premier League and UEFA both having rules requiring a certain amount of "homegrown" players on rosters, City might have to reach out for a local replacement for Richards.

Luke Shaw, of course, is a hot name on the transfer market, but given that he doesn't play the position in question, here we look to his Southampton teammate, Nathaniel Clyne.

The 23-year-old Clyne isn't an unfamiliar target for City, as the Daily Mail reported on the club chasing Clyne's signature in 2012 when he was still at Crystal Palace. Clyne eventually chose the South Coast club that summer, leaving us where we are today.

Adding the youngster's stats to our earlier comparison yields this image, again via Squawka.

Clyne played a good chunk less time than his older counterparts, but extrapolating his stats to fit a similar amount of time on the pitch yields some pretty solid numbers.

Given the time to flourish as a long-term replacement for Zabaleta, Clyne could prove a shrewd pickup should Pellegrini look his way this summer. His homegrown status works in his favor, and at his age and experience level, he'd probably be lower on the wage scale than Sagna.

In short, there are a lot of things to consider when thinking about City potentially bringing in the French international defender.

Considering that it's a free transfer, there's not much risk involved when taking FFP into account. But with a lot on the table beyond the fee, Pellegrini must explore all options before pulling the trigger on this deal.


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