Manchester City fans are being treated to some delightful entertainment this year at the Etihad Stadium. One opposition side after another are being swept aside by the sheer quality, and force of the City attack. Manuel Pellegrini has the privilege of selecting from one of the finest squad lists in world football. Over the initial months of the season, high praise has been reserved for the performances of numerous City players, solely attack-minded, such as Aguero, Silva, Negredo, and Toure. This is largely due to the contrast of superb attacking play alongside some defensive frailties, which are certainly not deserving of any praise. One player who could be forgiven as being seen as a new addition to the Pelligrini era is Samir Nasri. With the exception of a small period towards the end of the 2011/12 title winning season, Samir Nasri has been regularly criticised for his individual performances. Previous manager Roberto Mancini, went as far as to publicly berate Nasri’s contribution. Some of this frustration stems from the expectancy placed upon Nasri from the very beginning of his career.
Labelled as the ‘New Zidane’ by some quarters in France when he rose to prominence for Marseille, Nasri was on the verge of world stardom at Arsenal before his departure to Manchester. Pelligrini has given the front line freedom to demonstrate their genius without too many tactical hindrances. This was often where Mancini struggled in his quest to allow Nasri’s form to transfer to City as well as a large sum of money. Similar to Mata and Mourinho at Chelsea, Mancini expected an all-round package from his natural playmaker. David Silva lining up in the same eleven often provides both advantages and disadvantages for Nasri. The Frenchman bases a large proportion of his attributes in similar areas as the Spanish ‘Wizard’. More often than not teams cannot afford to allow two players to focus solely on providing playmaking opportunities, instead one must input greater quantity as well as quality to the side. The majority of the time this will include covering defensively whilst the opposition attacks. Commitment to the cause, and the ability to contribute defensively, were both questions raised within the criticism directed at Nasri. It was in fact without Silva in the team that Nasri excelled so effectively against the Swans. Pelligrini brought James Milner into midfield allowing Nasri to be a key figure in City’s attacking line.
The picture above, taken from Match Zone by The Daily Mail, breaks down the move that led to City’s second goal on Sunday. It was the first of two for Samir Nasri. With Silva injured, Nasri was instructed to tuck in behind the two frontmen Negredo and Aguero, and his first goal demonstrates this tremendously. Nasri hasnt played a single part in the build up before receiving the ball within the penalty box. He has an awareness that with Milner, Navas, Toure, and Fernandinho behind him, he needs to be present in the final third consistently. That is not to say he doesn’t get forward when Silva is in the team, however, there is a need to begin play further back. Therefore it is not always possible for Nasri to arrive in positions like seen above. It was a goal not too dissimilar that Arsenal fans once witnessed in their colours from the Frenchman. When in full flow he glides past defenders effortlessly and has the composure to deliver at the end. The same can not always be said for David Silva’s finishing, and Nasri’s second goal illustrated this perfectly.
It is no coincidence that during both of Nasri’s goals on Sunday, he cannot be seen in the early build up play, instead he is found in almost two identical positions around the penalty spot. The move was outstanding, once again by Manchester City, the finish even better. It was made to look simple, as though he couldn’t miss. The cutback from Zabaleta was brilliant, however, it wasn’t into the six yard box, meaning Nasri still had work to do. Many players would of opened their body and thrashed at the ball hoping to find the left hand corner of the goal. However, there were two Swansea players positioned in that area, who could have prevented a goal had Nasri done so. The Swansea keeper, Tremell, had already shifted his weight to his right anticipating the obvious strike first mentioned. To ensure he was to be successful, Nasri delicately opened out his sidefoot and passed the ball back across goal into the bottom right hand corner. This type of finish is one which every City fan would love to see Silva replicate as he too has the ability to do so. A simple pass into the exact spot of the goal he wanted, as though there were a teammate waiting to receive the ball, so easy on the eye, but incredibly difficult to produce. Wrong footing the keeper, and eluding the defender, eliminated any possibility that Nasri wasn’t going to celebrate his second for the day.
This type of display and end product were huge factors in City signing Nasri in 2011 from Arsenal. If people remember correctly, the purchase was made under the noses of their rivals from down the road. United went on to complete what they believed to be a bigger coup the following year in Van Persie. On the other hand, City don’t have any issues with a shortage of quality strikers, whereas United have major gaps to fill in their midfield. Nasri is 26 years of age, the best years seemingly yet to come. If City can recognise the need to allow the players they brought in to play in their natural positions, they have a frightening attack. There is no question regarding David Silva’s positon within the City team , he is key, consistently magical, and a striker’s dream. There is evidence though that he lacks Nasri’s natural ability to score. Pelligrini is showing his faith in Nasri, and the Frenchman has declared his happiness under the new regime, and his performances are illustrating this. Nasri can often be seen as having a large ego built into his character. Wenger claimed he needed ‘love’ as well as guidance. It seems Pelligrini may be giving Nasri the environment and belief to re-emerge from the shadows and excel once again. This is only positive for Manchester City fans, which means more worrying signs for Premier League defenders against the top goal scorers in the league.