10 Things We Learnt In Lockdown With Sagna by Dan Smith
Sagna is one of many ex-players to jump ship to Manchester. He became richer at the Etihad but unlike others, you sense after listening to the latest episode of ‘Lockdown’ on Arsenal.com he regrets leaving North London.
He routinely watches again the FA Cup win over Hull, and talks about at one point wanting to finish his career at the Emirates.
Here are 10 things we Learnt In Lockdown With Sagna
The Eduardo Injury
Perhaps the closest we have been to our first title since 2004 was in Sagna’s first season, not losing in his first 17 games and setting a club record 28 matches unbeaten in all competitions. We were 5 points clear of Man United in January, but the defender feels the turning point was the Birmingham game when Eduardo broke his leg.
Sagna remembers Fabregas being white in the face in horror of the scene, and there not being enough experience in the side to cope with separating personal with professional problems. Even though we were still top with plenty of games left we lacked the mentality to ever recover. Another example where a young Arsenal dressing room needed more leaders.
Players Hid Behind Gallas
One of the few leaders we did have was William Gallas. While Sagna doesn’t condone his countrymen’s outburst, which included sitting on the pitch at the final whistle and kicking the advertising boards (which resulted in him losing the captaincy), he does give an alternative perspective.
He feels it’s unfair how it has been built up in the media as the moment that cost us the title, affecting Gallas’ image with gooners ever since. Sagna says his skipper was so upset due to the belief he had in his teammates, and that in hindsight the dressing room should have done more to support him, not let it become an excuse with 3 months of the season still left.
Loss of His Brother
Gooners will remember a Champions League win in the San Siro as an iconic away day for the club. In reality Sagna’s brother had died a week earlier, showing you never know what is going on in a players personal life. For the full back to perform how he did in Milan while dealing with grief is incredible. Yet the problem was he wasn’t dealing with his grief at all…
Sees A Therapist
Sagna says after his brother Omar passed away a day before his 29th birthday he went into ‘robotic mode’. He would drive into training yet not even remember doing it. It was like he was present, but his mind was elsewhere, which is how the club therapist put it explaining why he couldn’t focus in his second season. From that point on, he found it comforting that he had someone to open up too.
Arsenal’s Inferior Complex To Rivals
Sagna says that having trained with them daily, he had no doubt we were good enough to be champions, but not enough of the youngsters did. The right back believes our record was so poor against those in the top 4 because they had household names that had won things, been at World Cups, etc.
Sagna believes while he knows they were talented, perhaps his young peers mentally didn’t believe yet they belonged in that kind of company. Again, that’s why we needed more leaders.
That Birmingham Game
While he doesn’t necessarily think that Winning the League Cup would have guaranteed more trophies would follow, Sagna does think it would have helped the moral of the squad. The players were hearing daily about the trophy drought and the perception they were mentally weak. The manner of this loss didn’t help the issues Sagna mentioned.
Winning The FA Cup
Sagna keeps re-watching back the Cup Final because of the emotional roller coaster he went through. He says the squad were crippled by pressure to end the 9-year trophy drought, especially with him knowing this was his final game as a gunner. When Hull raced into a two-goal lead, he spoke about his desire for his Arsenal life not to finish like this.
To be fair for his 7 years consistency, it would have been unfair had he not had a single medal to show for his efforts.
He Didn’t Feel Loved
Sagna said he didn’t want to leave Arsenal and that he even planned to finish his career there, yet the club never made him feel he was loved. He refers to his contract as an example, citing in his 7 years it was never altered as a way to show they appreciated his hard work. He knew 12 months in advance that he wasn’t going to extend his deal, as he said the board during negotiations showed very little indication that he mattered. Van Persie said the same thing. If enough people make the same noises surely there must be some truth in it?
He says he regrets how ugly his departure was, leading to a section of the crowd to boo him when he returned to the Emirates. It upset him as the perception was that he left for money, but he wanted to stay, it was Arsenal who didn’t fight for him. Our club are very good at this. Let the media make fans think it’s the player being greedy and not loyal, while they are slashing the wage bill every time.
A few years ago, Sagna wasn’t interested in coaching, but now he believes it is his duty to share his experience and give something back to football. He is currently an ambassador for MLS side Montreal Impact, but was due to complete his badges before the pandemic attacked.