The pressure was on for ‘Bac’ as he is known by his Arsenal teammates straight away as he left France’s Ligue 1 as Auxerre’s player of the season, in Ligue 1’s Team of the Year and was also voted France’s best right-sided defender. A lot was expected from Arsenal fans who grew frustrated with the inconsistency of Emmanuel Eboue. Hope turned to great expectations when Sagna was handed the number 3 shirt, vacated by Ashley Cole.
Surprisingly, the demands didn’t weigh Sagna down and he took to the Premier League like a frog to water. His side led the pack for the majority of the season before stumbling after a combination of injuries, suspensions and that horrific leg-break suffered by teammate Eduardo saw Arsenal finish third behind Chelsea and eventual champions Manchester United.
Along with the problems suffered at his club, Sagna was enduring his own personal trauma as on 13 February 2008, exactly one week before Arsenal were set to play the second leg of their knock-out encounter against AC Milan in the Champions League Sagna’s older brother, Omar Sagna, died at the age of 28, the day before his birthday.
Sagna did go on to play in that game on the advice of his father and recollects the events vividly.
‘My father called me when Omar died and he said ‘I don’t want it to affect your performances so I want you to play against Milan.’
‘I have to say at first I didn’t want to play because I wanted to be with my family but I listened to father and played. He was right because we won and I played a good game.’
It was performances like this and his consistent run ousting Emmanuel Eboue from the right-back position which saw Sagna named in the PFA Team of the Year in 2007-08, an honour he has yet to reclaim since.
‘When I was in the team of the year I was very proud and I was thinking about my brother because he gave me so much advice over my career. It was really special.” He pauses and begins to smile before adding, “But I know what he would say now, ‘How come you only win once, you should win it every year!’