Bacary Sagna has given his backing to his beleaguered former manager, Arsene Wenger, arguing that “he does not deserve what is happening to him”.
Manchester City’s first fixture after the international break is at Arsenal, who are in danger of failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 1997. In the aftermath of their catastrophic defeat at West Bromwich Albion, the atmosphere at the Emirates Stadium on April 2 is likely to be poisonous with Arsenal fans continuing their demonstrations against Wenger being awarded a fresh two-year contract. Manchester City then face Arsenal in the semi-final of the FA Cup, a competition Wenger has won more times than any other modern manager.
Sagna, who spent seven seasons at Arsenal, said that while he could understand the fans’ frustrations, he believes Wenger should remain in charge of the club he has managed for more than 20 years.
“At the moment I am quite sad for the manager because he doesn’t deserve what’s happening to him,” said the 34-year-old full-back. “He’s a great man and an institution for Arsenal. It’s not fair. Sometimes, you can have difficult moments but he has always been there for the team.”
Nevertheless, with Arsenal having lost six of their previous nine fixtures – two of the wins were against non-league clubs, Sutton and Lincoln, – Sagna understands the deep unease and anger among the clubs supporters.
“I don’t want to say that,” he said when asked if he thought Arsenal supporters had short memories. “Of course, they are disappointed because of the results. Anyone would be with what has happened on the pitch.
“But they have quality players, players who can react, players who are in the Champions League every season. They can beat anyone. They remain good players. Maybe commitment-wise they were not that confident and without that confidence it is difficult to play but they remain a good team and dangerous to play against.”
Although Arsenal have only beaten one member of the top seven – Chelsea in September – Sagna argued the international break would give the club time to regroup before they face Manchester City, who beat them 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium in December.
Whatever happens to Wenger, Sagna said he will always be grateful to the man who brought him to the Premier League from Auxerre a decade ago.
“For life I will be thankful to him because he brought me to England,” he said. “And I will be thankful because, even when I had tough moments, he always showed his trust in me. That’s why it is quite difficult for me to see him in this position – but to me he is the man for this situation at Arsenal.”