What appears to be the worst-kept secret in European football is that Newcastle and French right-back Mathieu Debuchy will be joining Arsenal to replace the departed Bacary Sagna. While nothing is official at the moment, Debuchy essentially has already verified a move is in the cards.
Debuchy says he is still in talks to join Arsenal despite earlier telling French television he was on his way to the Emirates this summer. In a possible deal understood to be worth around £8m—rising to £12m with add-ons—the France defender would provide a ready-made replacement for his national team-mate Sagna, who left to join Manchester City on a free transfer at the end of the season.
After France’s World Cup quarter-final defeat by Germany, he said to a pitch-side reporter, telling TF1: 'Yes, I will be joining Arsenal for next season.'
There has been no confirmation of the transfer from Arsenal, but the move has been widely mooted for several weeks and now appears to be a formality pending a medical.
So, what will Debuchy bring to the Gunners?
Well, there's no doubt that Debuchy is a threat going forward. In fact, he'll represent an upgrade over Sagna in that regard.
|Mathieu Debuchy vs. Bacary Sagna in 2013-14 Season|
|Player||EPL Apps||Goals||Assists||Accurate Crosses Per Game||Key Passes Per Game||Rating|
|Mathieu Debuchy||28 (1)||1||3||0.5||0.8||7.42|
|Bacary Sagna||34 (1)||1||2||0.5||0.6||7.2|
|Stats via WhoScored.com|
Those numbers may only represent a modest upgrade on paper, but keep in mind that he accumulated those stats on a far less talented Newcastle attack. To add some perspective, keep in mind that Arsenal scored 68 goals last year, while Newcastle notched just 43.
Debuchy is still in his prime and was thought highly enough of by France's manager, Didier Deschamps, to start over Sagna in this year's World Cup. He's also plenty familiar with the rigors of the Premier League, so he shouldn't have much of an adjustment period in that regard.
And before we paint Debuchy as a one-trick pony at full-back, let's keep in mind that he was plenty solid defensively for Newcastle. Daniel Anwar of Squawka Football has more on that front:
Sagna may not have been the most dynamic full-back in an attacking sense, but Arsenal were always able to count on him defensively. Wenger will want that same dependability from his replacement, and Debuchy actually fared better than Sagna in tackles won, aerial duels, interceptions, and blocks per 90 minutes last season.
In fact, with the exception of tackles per 90, his stats in all of those categories are better than Pablo Zabaleta, Seamus Coleman, and Branislav Ivanovic as well. Zabaleta only just edges ahead of Debuchy in tackles per 90, with 2.69 to 2.57.
Debuchy’s defensive stats are very impressive, but he is playing at a lower level than the other four players in the Comparison Matrix. At Newcastle, he is required to defend more than the others, which could be the reason his defensive stats seem so high in comparison.
Debuchy likes to maraud forward, yes, but he's a balanced right-back. He wants to get forward and work his way toward the back post in the attack, no doubt, but he has no problem handling his defensive responsibilities, either.
Still, Sagna was consistently a pillar in defense for Arsenal. He was good in the air, excellent at winning the ball back and always seemed to know when he should venture forward and when it was more necessary to play more conservatively.
Sam Tighe of Bleacher Report wonders if losing Sagna will hurt the Gunners defensive balance:
Without question, Sagna was a player Arsenal could always rely on. You generally knew what you were getting from the Frenchman, and while he had a shocker or two along the way, more often than not he was a stabilizing presence. In Debuchy, Arsenal will have a player who brings a bit more attacking intent and sizzle, but also one who may hit more rough patches than Sagna did.
Or maybe he won't. Perhaps with an Arsenal side that controls possession and has more technically skilled players across the pitch, he will shine. Perhaps joining Arsenal will put him under less pressure defensively and allow him to thrive offensively.
He certainly seems up to the challenge. And Arsenal would certainly be better having him now that Sagna is gone. With some big names potentially set to join Debuchy in the exodus to north London—Alexis Sanchez and Lars Bender are reportedly targets as well—John Cross of the Mirror thinks the Gunners could be in for the league title next year:
That's certainly music to Gooners ears. Debuchy would represent a heck of a start to what could be a very exciting summer for Arsenal.