Arsenal FC: What Signing Mathieu Debuchy Means for the Gunners

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Arsenal FC: What Signing Mathieu Debuchy Means for the Gunners
Scott Heppell/Associated Press

With Bacary Sagna leaving Arsenal on a free transfer after seven years in north London, signing a new right-back is one of the club's top priorities this summer.

It appears, however, that Arsene Wenger has already found a replacement. According to Sky Sports, Newcastle's Mathieu Debuchy is close to signing for the Gunners in a deal worth around £10 million.

While it may not be quite as exciting as the reported Alexis Sanchez signing, snapping up Debuchy represents a shrewd acquisition for Arsenal.

The former Lille man was actually preferred to Bacary Sagna in France's World Cup campaign, so there's a case to be made that Debuchy is the perfect replacement for his compatriot. 

Statistically, the two are very similar—in fact, Debuchy beats Sagna in a number of categories. 

While Sagna won 1.7 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per game this past season, Debuchy won 3.3 and 2.4, respectively.

Although these stats certainly make good reading for Arsenal supporters, keep in mind that Debuchy has a lot more defending to do at a team like Newcastle. He may have more tackles completed simply because Newcastle have to defend more. Arsenal, on the other hand, keep possession for the majority of the game, so Sagna doesn't have nearly as many tackles to make.

Aside from being French, one similarity between Sagna and Debuchy is that they're both strong in the air. Anyone who watches the Gunners regularly is familiar with the sight of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny lumping the ball up to Sagna's head, so fans may be wondering who will be winning headers off of goal kicks next season in the absence of the 31-year-old. 

Well, it looks like Szczesny will still be aiming for his right-back, as Debuchy is just as dominant in the air as Sagna—if not more so. Their statistics in this area are nearly identical: Debuchy wins 4.0 aerial duels per game while Sagna wins 3.5. Likewise, Debuchy wins 68.1 percent of his aerial duels while Sagna wins 67.2 percent.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Debuchy was preferred to former Arsenal right-back Bacary Sagna in France's World Cup campaign.

 

The aspect of Debuchy's game that will excite Arsenal fans most, however, is his attacking ability. This is arguably the reason Didier Deschamps prefers Debuchy to Sagna in the France setup, in spite of Sagna's experience and consistency.

Debuchy has that extra burst of pace that Sagna has unfortunately lost through age and two leg breaks. That's not to say Sagna doesn't contribute to the attack; he constantly looks to get forward and is capable of delivering wicked crosses on his day. But Debuchy will offer the Gunners something different.

The Frenchman has a bit more directness in his play, and his pace means that he's capable of taking on defenders—something that Sagna rarely did, as reflected by the statistics. Debuchy averaged .58 successful take-ons per game this past season, while Sagna averaged just .24.

In fact, all attacking statistics favor Debuchy. He averaged .72 key passes and .83 chances created per game last season, while Sagna averaged .56 and .62, respectively.

One thing that Arsenal supporters will miss about Sagna—besides his hair—is his consistency. During his seven years in north London, there wasn't a single game in which he didn't give his full 100 percent. Sure, he had the odd howler, but you always knew what you were going to get from Sagna.

In fact, few players reach the level of consistency that Sagna boasts. While Debuchy will likely produce more exciting displays than his compatriot did, he'll also probably have a few more off days.

However, there are areas in which Debuchy must improve if he is to succeed at the Emirates. In particular, his passing will need to be tidier in order to suit Arsenal's possession-based playing style. He had a pass-completion rate of 73 percent last season, which pales in comparison to Sagna's 85 percent.

It's likely that Debuchy's completion rate will rise when he plays for a team that keeps the ball more, but he'll certainly have to get used to the Gunners' style of play as it differs drastically to Newcastle's.

While Debuchy is statistically similar to Sagna, his age means that he's no long-term replacement. He turns 29 later this month, so realistically, he'll play two or three seasons with the Gunners before Wenger must once again assess his options.

That being said, the fact that Wenger doesn't appear to be signing 21-year-old Serge Aurier indicates that youngsters already at the club, such as 22-year-old Carl Jenkinson and 19-year-old Hector Bellerin, could be long-term replacements for Sagna.

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Carl Jenkinson could be Bacary Sagna's long-term replacement.

Nobody truly knows what's going on in Wenger's head, but it makes sense for Debuchy to come in and do the job for a few seasons while Jenkinson and Bellerin improve and mature to contend for the club's starting right-back position in the not-so-distant future.

In the meantime, Debuchy is a smart signing for the Gunners and could be key in their chase for silverware this upcoming season.

 

Stats via WhoScored unless otherwise noted. 

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