“Samir is a student of football – he lives for the game. He loves training and watches game after game on TV. He uses things he has seen to help correct mistakes in his own game. When you genuinely love football this is what makes the difference.” Giles Grimandi on Nasri.
Samir Nasri turns 28 today and that is some age to have when you are a footballer. For most players, their 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st years are usually their best ones: their bodies are stronger than ever, their fitness is still at peak level and a lot of experience has been accumulated. Add to these three factors great technical and mental ability, and you have a player at the top of their game.
A few years ago, before the CL final between Bayern and Dortmund, Wenger stated that Bayern would be the likely winners as they had the most 28 and 29 year olds in their team. Luckily, Arsenal have shifted the average squad age upwards in recent years and this is one of the reasons we are now winning trophies again.
But back to the Marseille-born Frenchman of Algerian parents for whom we once had such an energising song. He has been at Citeh for four years now and his career has stalled. Unable to hold on to a first team spot, he has warmed the bench a lot season after season, with on average 28 games per season, of which many as a substitute (last season he averaged 65 minutes per game played). The rival Citeh fans have not warmed much to him either.
In his last season at Arsenal, he scored a PL goal in every three games – 10 in total – but this season he only managed two goals in 21 PL games (but with a respectable six assists). Whereas he managed to score 18 PL goals in 86 games for Arsenal, Nasri has only scored 16 PL goals in 113 games for the Northern Oilers. Instead of making progress, he has performed worse in the city where it always ‘rains’ – an anagram of ‘Nasri’ – and it looks like he is stuck. He now enters the last year of his five-year contract and he appears to be reassessing his football life and next options.
Recently, he has come out with unveiled praise for Arsene Wenger, who he regards as the best manager he worked under. This is what he has been quoted on saying: “I’m close to Arsene Wenger, I’ve always said he is my football father, and I wouldn’t just say that. He did a lot for me. He made me the player I am and is someone who’s been really important for my career”. At Marseille, Nasri had five managers in a relatively short spell at senior level, followed by Arsene, Mancini and Pellegrini, so, given the large number of potential ‘football fathers’, this statement is not without merit.
It almost seems like Nasri is building bridges, which would of course be a clever – or should that be calculated? – move given his need to start planning his future again… for which a good reference is always crucial. Or maybe, he is hoping for a return to the home of football.
Many see him as a mercenary, with a calculated commitment to the clubs he plays for and only interested in earning as much money as possible; and the speed and the way in which he moved to Citeh certainly suggests that moneygrubbing is his main aim in life. But then there are the words of the wise Grimandi, who saw in Nasri someone who lives and breathes football with a genuine love for the beautiful game… which does not sound like the description of a mercenary.
I am a firm believer in giving people chances and that, if we are lucky enough, life offers opportunities to learn from mistakes, to complete phases, and to re-find, to reinvent or re-launch oneself. Successful people need talent, focus, drive and hard work to get to the top, but just as important is room for doubt and humility. The latter two help to make the paradigm jumps and evolve from one phase to another.
I don’t think Nasri is the brightest spark in football and neither is he a likeable character, but I also understand that at 24 years of age he was susceptible to bad advice and prone to making mistakes. There is still a great footballer to come out of him but time is starting to run out.
Would we want him back, though?
We have space for him on the right side where Arsenal have a vacancy. He could be our ‘Freddie Ljungberg’ of this era, with a similar skillset, ability and goal to game ratio. Nasri would also be a good alternative on the left wing and behind the striker. But, as a club we have moved on considerably now and we only have space for top, top quality players going forward. We need somebody next to Ollie and Alexis who can score 12-16 PL goals a season and work his socks off in supporting the right FB and midfield colleagues, as per Arsene’s system of play. This is not Theo and Ox is not ready yet.
Could Nasri be this player now he is reaching his peak years?
I reckon he could but it would require him turning his perceived calculated commitment into a passionate one once again, and play for the team and to be willing to give his all to reach his full potential.
Wenger took back another Marseille youth development product, Flamini, after being left in the lurch by him, so it would not be completely inconceivable for Nasri to return next, or even this, season. Still, it is only a small chance and I would only want it if Nasri really, really wanted it, and Wenger would give the move his blessing.
By Total Arsenal.