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December Player of the Month

At this stage of the season, selecting a player of the month is a troublesome task. A congested seasonal fixture list precipitates the need for squad rotation whilst, this year, hazardous conditions have led to games being postponed, which left a fortnight hole searing gently in the December calendar. The calm before the storm of four games in nine days. Indeed in the Wigan and Birmingham matches, Arsene Wenger made eight changes a piece. This renders it a curious task to choose one player who has stood out consistently amongst a tempest of transition. Bacary Sagna has started in every game this month and comes close to the December award by virtue of a consistency of performance which he has maintained since August. Emmanuel Eboue briefly challenged for Sagna`s place last season, but Banger has picked up the pace and shown the Ivorian a clean pair of heels in the race for the right back spot. A revealing glimpse of the value of competition within a squad.

Johan Djourou can likewise be pleased with his December, even though he has not clocked up half the minutes managed by Sagna. Towering performances against Fulham and Chelsea appear to have nudged him into pole position as one of the team`s first choice centre backs. Shackling Didier Drogba is a task few other Arsenal defenders can claim to have performed so diligently in recent years. Alex Song`s metamorphosis into the complete midfield player appears to become more apparent by the game. However, the winner for December Player of the Month is a man that has troubled the judging committee (errr, me) for every single award so far this season. One has the feeling that, based on current form, the PFA Player of the Year award will be making its way to North London at the end of the season, the question would be whether it ends up on Gareth Bale`s mantelpiece or that of Samir Nasri. The transformation in the French winger since last season has been marked. Last season I persistently wrote that Nasri is a player of exceptional talent that appears too afraid of taking risks. As I write now, he has 13 goals this season.

Obviously the Fulham match at the beginning of December went a long way to bagging him the award. It was a rare example of a player in a top flight match pulling the team by the scuff of the neck and winning a match all by himself. In these days of hyperbole and congratulation, one has to steel oneself and realise that there are genuinely very few players in the world capable of doing that. Both goals in that game were things of beauty, touch and composure, speed of thought. For the second goal, the crowd audibly slumped when Nasri stumbled round Schwarzer, believing he had gone too far and that the chance had passed. But Samir had the presence of mind to spin his body into an angle whereby he could cut the ball into goal. Two of the main improvements in the player this season crystallized in one swivel of the hips. Firstly, the willingness to take responsibility, unafraid of failure, he was willing to try and audacious effort in a tight game. Secondly, his subtlety and sleight of foot. He is an incredibly intelligent player on the ball, able to guide passes and change direction with a barely visible flurry of the body. Nasri is one of those rare players that can fool the spectators` eyes as they watch him. You can sit and see him take an opponent on, only to find your eyes have momentarily lost sight of the ball because he has changed the direction of body and / or ball so deceptively.

His goal against Partizan Belgrade is the perfect example of what I am talking about. I saw the replay of that goal in the stadium five or six times and even then believed that he had misjudged a flick towards Alex Song in the build up to the goal. I had to see it at the comfortable proximity of my own laptop later on to realise that he had actually foxed the defenders by feinting to flick to Song, before flicking his body round to lash the ball into the bottom corner. There are also signs of a burgeoning axis being formed between Fabregas and Nasri. Though I am confused as to why so much surprise has been expressed over this. My guess is that Arsenal fans are preparing themselves for Cesc`s departure to the extent that any other creative influence on the side is seen as a quick fix replacement for Fabregas, as opposed to a partner. Fabregas is a player that can form partnerships with anyone because, well because he`s really quite good. It`s no coincidence that the careers of Adebayor, Hleb and Flamini have taken a tumble down the khazi without his influence and service. Good players can always play together given time.

This season has seen Nasri turn from a cog in our wheel to a bona fide match winner. He has been in England for two and a half years now, having just turned 23 and is hitting an age where talent begins to ally with consistency. I watched Aliaksandr Hleb solemnly warming up to my left on the touchline on Saturday and could not but help wonder whether Hleb wondered if he might have blossomed into the sort of player Nasri has become given more time under Wenger`s tutelage. Though Wenger`s extraordinary guidance of yet another young rough gem into a polished jewel is not to be overlooked (and it is too often overlooked nowadays, so familiar has Wenger become due to length of tenure), Nasri`s current form should serve as a stark reminder to anybody who still believes international football is worth casing. Lest we forget that Nasri was omitted from France`s shambolic World Cup showing and I have seen nothing but good emanate from that extra rest and added impetus that a summer on the beach and the training field gave him. If Alex Hleb was looking on on Saturday wondering if Samir Nasri is now the player he could have been, maybe Nasri can glance up at the legacy of Robert Pires, up on its gilded pedestal and use it as something to aspire to.LD.

August: Tomas Rosicky
September: Jack Wilshere
October: Samir Nasri
November: Marouane Chamakh




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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday January 3 2011

Time: 5:04PM

Your Comments

Great choice. Nasri's exclusion from the WC has done us a massive favour. He's found his motivation and his hunger, and he's turned into a brilliant player. As for Bale or Nas for the the PFA award, Bale's major contributions have been in Europe, and whilst he's not exactly slacking, Nasri has easily been the best player in the league so far!
Rocky7
Well deserved. Brilliant talent.
Omogusii
No brainer, really, although as you point out, Sagna and Djourou have been pretty colossal. We have struggled without Cesc (somehow I don't think the connection between wins against Chelsea and Birmingham and his return to fitness is coincidental) and you wonder just where we would be without Nasri carrying us. The likes of Wilshere and Chamakh can be pleased with their contribution so far, but they're not nearly as influential as Nasri has become. In 6 months he has gone from a player who I'd have been satisfied to warm the bench, to the first name on the teamsheet: a sensational rise. Keep it up Sami!
super_gooner
The other thing I've noticed is he also seems to have acquired an injection of pace that means he can drive at and past opponents, something that hadn't really been in evidence before. The worry is that in this kind of form Barca will be tapping him up before long.
Gooner_Vin
It had to be Nasri, really. My concern is he is going to get player of the month for many more months to come, as he has that consistency. Another aspect of his game is his tenacity; he is the most difficult player to dispossess of the ball, no matter how many players he has in attendance. You can trust him to control the ball well and keep possession almost always. The goal against Partizan Belgrade was pure delight and showed the artistry in the man. In his ensuing match report, LD had written: "Alex Song`s nifty shift of feet saw the ball land at the feet of Nasri in the area, he tried to flick the ball back into Song`s path. The attempted flick did not come off, but when you`re on form, you tend to find serendipity and the ball landed perfectly back at his feet for him to swivel and steer the ball into the bottom corner". Well, glad to see you have had a change of view on that goal. I watch Nasri's control closely and know he is capable of the 'slight of foot/body' feints which are very uncommon and easily fox opposition players. That goal showed that quality again. A great player in the making and the best part is he is Arsenal's!
Naijagunner
I have watched this boy since he first burst onto the scene at Marseilles at 17. I never thought Wenger would sign him because he would be outside our budget. I am convinced he will be better than Pires in the long run and I said last year that given time, he will forge a great partnership with Cesc. A very intelligent footballer and great choice for POTM.
Gael-Force
That was a shoe-in really. He's added so much to his game in this year. If you look at his performances at the tail end of last season as well he showed great ability but he failed to marry it with consistent performances. It seems he has found that consistency this season and my word has it transformed him into one of the best players in the world. He's added a bit of power and pace as well into his game this season as Gooner_Vin pointed out. And notice that every time we have won the league there as been a player who has stepped up to the plate. I think Nasri's the one for me and if we win the league this season he's gonna be really influential
Eboue=GOD
NASRI! SAMIR NASRI! Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Samir Nasri. NASRI! SAMIR NASRI! Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Samir Nasri.
Wyn Mills
I love this chant...not done in the KC and The Sunshine Band way, but rather with the initial emphasis and start on NASRI.
Wyn Mills
Been the best player in the Premier league by an absolute mile.
Tom14
I'd have to call it a tie with Sagna, who has simply been as good, consistent and valuable as a right back can be (especially given how many minutes he's logged)
feelinesound
Sagna's been exceptional. But Nasri's been in a class of his own this month. He deserves the prize
Eboue=GOD
He's also won the PFA Fans' Player of the Month award: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/862045/nasri-scoops-espn-pfa-fans'-award-for-decembersamir-?cc=4716
GoonerLou
Good call, Mr. Stillman. Bravo!
Naijagunner
 

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