Arguably the best Right-backs in the Premier League, the Frenchman and Argentine are often compared and have gotten into quite a few rifts on the pitch due to their ‘never back down’ mentality which contributes to their respective teams massively. Sagna and Zabaleta are both fan favourites and with good reason. Both Sagna and Zabaleta have been at their clubs for over a total of over 16 years, with the former being at Arsenal since 2007 and the latter becoming a blue in 2008. Their styles of play are very similar, both are high-flying full-backs who can also operate as wing-backs with great understanding of the game and attacking positions as well as conducting themselves well when defending, proving their defensive credentials time and time again. Manchester City have a more recent rivalry than their cross town rivals with Arsenal, mainly sparked from many Arsenal players leaving lavish London for magnificent Manchester such as Emmanuel Adebayor, Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri or ‘Samir Cashri’ as known by Arsenal fans. Both players are first team players who are crucial to their teams and both Arsenal and Manchester City will have to search long and hard to find adequate replacements for them.
Pablo Zabaleta’s career started at Argentine club San Lorenzo de Almagro as a teenager and stayed in Argentina till 2005 where after a successful campaign in the U20 FIFA World cup as captain, La Liga club Espanyol bought Zabaleta for €3m and won silverware in his first season in Spain, winning the Copa Del Rey in the 2005/06 season. He was known by the fans and the league as one of the hardest working players and was described as an ‘engine’ due to his immense work-rate and determination. Then in 2008, a day before the club was bought by Sheikh Mansour who injected a large amount of money into the Manchester club, Mark Hughes bought Zabaleta for £7.6m and it was revealed that Pablo actually turned down an offer to join Italian giants Juventus and signed a 5 year contract with City. He made his first appearance as a Manchester City player in the 3-1 defeat to Chelsea but throughout the years, has been one of the most consistent players for City and even in the Premier League. Zabaleta’s style of play is very attacking orientated as if you watch City games, he’ll normally be right up in their opponent’s half and is very much involved in almost every City attack. This is the same case for when he represents Argentina but recently he has been played in the midfield as a defensive midfielder and performs well in the role. Another thing Zabaleta is renowned for is his versatility in being able to play to play different positions well as such right and left back as well as centre back and central defensive midfielder. Some strong points in Pablo’s play are his tackling which is second to none as well as passing and executing key passes in attacks to open up the opposition. Although his crosses ability is very weak and he is somewhat disciplined but does commit fouls often and does concede a lot of free kicks and penalties for both Manchester City and Argentina.
Even though he’s at the ripe age of 31, Bacary Sagna is an important part of the Arsenal team and has been even since joining the London club in 2007. Being bought in as a replacement for Lauren and was given Ashley Cole’s old number of 3, he started his career as an Auxerre reserve player in their B team put after two years, he was promoted to their first team and in the three years he stayed there, he racked up 87 apps and 3 goals for the French club and also won two trophies whilst there; the Coupe De France and the now abolished UEFA Intertoto Cup. When Arsene Wenger bought Sagna, it was a mixed reaction by fans. They were hoping he would settle in well and quickly and with fellow Frenchmen such as Mathieu Flamini and Gael Clichy and with manager Wenger being French himself. He did exactly that and quickly found himself in the first team as the first choice right-back, ahead of Emmanuel Eboue in the pecking order. Sagna is also first choice right-back for France in internationals and has been for a number of years but recently has been fighting off competition by Newcastle United’s Mathieu Debuchy for a spot in the France XI and the race is definitely on for right-back for the World Cup in the summer. Sagna is a player who is not fazed by money and is a player who would rather just get on and play the beautiful game instead of grabbing money whenever it appears, something that is not very common in today’s game and is praised and respected by fans around. The Frenchman is out of contract come this summer and having reportedly turning down a contract extension at Arsenal, has the Arsenal faithful in frantic dismay in if he will stay and if he goes, how does Arsene replace such an integral player in his team? His style of play is somewhat similar to Zabaleta’s, in the sense that he is very attack-minded although Bacary crosses more often, and his deliveries are sublime and does pose more of an attacking threat than his Manchester City opposite. But he is very short-tempered and often does get carded for his actions on the pitch.
Both these players are excellent for both their club and countries and are world-class right-backs who have successful careers and will no doubt have even more success for years to come.