Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday July 28 2010
You may or may not recall that this time last year I produced a trilogy of articles entitled It`s Going To Be A Big Season For…exuding focus onto three first team players who face make or break campaigns. Last summer I focussed on Andrey Arshavin, Abou Diaby and Theo Walcott (doesn`t it always seem like a make or break season for Theo?). Well, I thought to myself, "that seemed to go pretty alright, why not have another bash at it?" So I have. In the first part of the triumvirate, I shall concentrate on the not inconsiderable talents of Samir Nasri. Having dodged something of a bullet by missing out on World Cup selection for a shambles of a France squad this summer, he will feel has a great deal to prove. And he does.
Of course a new international manager, one that doesn`t pick his team based on what the fairies that live in his nasal hair tell him, should reinvigorate Nasri. He is almost certain to be one of the French "scabs" picked for their friendly in August as the French national strikers have been taken down 1980s Thatcher style and are prohibited from playing in the next squad. But Nasri`s first target must be to fulfil his obvious potential at Arsenal. You would be hard pushed to find an Arsenal fan that has any doubts over Nasri`s ability; he has poise on the ball and is rarely anything other than economical in possession. His beguiling dribble and shot against Porto was probably Arsenal`s most aesthetically pleasing goal of last season and it would have surprised nobody that Nasri has the ability to produce such a masterpiece. But that goal also illustrated how much more dangerous Nasri can be when he uses his skill on the edge of opposition areas, as opposed t the edge of the centre circle. Nasri has made no secret of his preference to play through the middle (don`t all creative players want that?) At the tail end of his debut season, he was even trialled as a defensive midfielder until Chelsea ruthlessly exposed what a piece of blue sky thinking that had been.
However, the truth is that while Cesc is still an Arsenal player, Nasri will always have to be content to be one of the wide strikers. Aside from the fact that Cesc is one of the top 3 players in his position in the world, Nasri has not yet shown the ability to split defences in twain with the sort of raking passes Fabregas is capable of. Nasri also doesn`t dart into the box with the same ebullience as the young Spaniard; the captain is part artist, part enforcer. Nasri is definitely the bespectacled, intellectual type of footballer, but not a gravel gutted general. That`s not to say he cannot play through the middle- indeed he has looked very encouraging through there in pre season, but he quite simply can`t have designs on displacing Cesc there, he will only ever be a back up to Fabregas. However, Nasri has featured prominently in the position during pre season and, even given the poverty of the opposition, has excelled. I wonder if the consistent use of Nasri and Wilshere in the central positions suggests Arsene is doing some contingency planning for Cesc`s departure, in the short term he might just be making use of his captain`s extended hiatus by preparing for any injuries. Let`s face it; Wenger would have to be a complete fool not to expect injuries at Arsenal now and given the fact that Fabregas suffered four separate hamstring injuries and a leg break last season, it pays to have a dusty file marked 'Plan B.`
For Nasri, I think the player he could do well to learn from the most, as well as his captain, is the diminutive Russian on the other flank. Arshavin is a player that frustrates people, but for some reason he doesn`t frustrate me so much. I think it`s because he always tries to take a risk, he is always looking for the killer shot or the defence splitting pass. The lines of success when a player takes such risks are fine. A slide rule pass that is cut out by an opposing defender will be met with gasps of exasperation from the crowd. Yet the pass that narrowly evades the defenders toes and hemisects the rearguard draws applause and gasps of admiration. Nasri has the ability to shoot from distance and to slice defences in twain in the final third, but he is too often conservative in possession and chooses the tidy shunt five yards to his left. To become one of Arsenal`s arch unpicker of defensive locks, he needs to take more risks and the pre season signs have been good to this effect I must say. Nasri is now no longer new blood in the Arsenal side, this will be his third season and he is now 23 years old. The time has come for him to step up and be a name on the team sheet that strikes fear into opponents; he needs to emerge as a player that takes responsibility. He has the ability, I`m certain he has the intelligence. I`d really like to see him take his game ten yards further forward, he may start principally as a wide player, but as with Hleb and Arshavin, he needs to develop the intelligence to involve himself and know when to move in from the flank. It`s an art that Robert Pires utterly perfected. He could have worse role models.LD.
Date:Wednesday July 28 2010
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