LONDON, England, February 22- Arsenal’s expected summer of change is likely to include the departure of Bacary Sagna, the France right-back, who is apparently disappointed to have been offered only a one-year contract extension to remain at the London club.
Sagna has excelled at times as an attack-minded right-back over his six-year spell at the Emirates Stadium, even if the two leg breaks he suffered in separate incidents last season have served to dampen his impact recently.
Concerns over his long-term fitness are understood to have influenced the club’s thinking in offering a 12-month deal to extend his current contract, which expires in the summer of 2014.
The 30-year-old, who featured in Tuesday’s defeat to Bayern Munich but is a doubt for Saturday’s visit of Aston Villa in the Premier League, had hoped to secure longer terms but, with the offer submitted, is now privately resigned to leaving the club at the end of the campaign.
The French league leaders, Paris Saint-Germain, or a club in the Middle East have been mooted as possible destinations.
Arsène Wenger had hinted at those concerns over the player’s fitness ahead of the FA Cup fifth round tie with Blackburn Rovers last weekend.
“He has criticised his own form recently but the things you never question from Bacary are his commitment, his mental attitude, his desire to win and his intelligence,” said Wenger.
“If he has not been playing as he would expect, it is down to his injury. It takes time to come back, and he has played through a lot of pain – in fact, he is one of the strongest players I have met when it comes to doing that.
“He’s hugely respected here, and if he’s not at the level we know he can achieve then we are tolerant because we know it’s not down to a lack of commitment. It’s just because he has come back from a long-term injury.
The manager has already instructed his chief scout, Steve Rowley, to draw up a list of potential replacements at right-back as he plans what is expected to be a busy summer of comings and goings at the Emirates.
The Arsenal board reiterated their support for Wenger at a routine board meeting on Thursday and will back their manager of 17 years in the rebuilding process, even if the team do not succeed in overhauling fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur over the remaining 12 games to qualify for the Champions League.
Players such as David Villa, Victor Wanyama, Etienne Capoue and Pepe Reina will come under scrutiny as potential signings, while fringe players from the current playing staff will be moved on.
The majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, attended the meeting as expected, with Wenger delivering a report on the team’s progress on the pitch, with other department heads doing likewise for their respective briefs.
There will be funds available to spend, with the impact of the new shirt sponsorship deal with Emirates Airlines, worth £150m over five years, to be felt, while the club are also in negotiations over a lucrative kit deal with either Nike or Adidas.
– The Guardian (UK)