“That’s where I play best, that’s how I was formed. In every age group at youth level, I often played through the middle. I’ve been playing out wide for two years with Arsenal but feel more at ease in the centre of the pitch.”
These words were recently uttered by the only person on the Arsenal squad that could be as strong as Cesc Fabregas in the center of midfield. Yes, there is Jack Wilshere (too young right now), Tomas Rosicky (not the same after that long-standing injury), and Andrei Arshavin (dangerous, but inconsistent). With Cesc Fabregas all but certain to reach his dream of playing in a Barcelona jersey next season, Arsene Wenger’s choice really isn’t one at all. He has to pick Samir Nasri.
When Samir Nasri was purchased in the summer of 2008 by the Gunners to take over for Barcelona bound Alexander Hleb, he had already proved himself to be a superstar in France. Coming off of a season with Ligue 1 side Marseille where he scored seven goals and had 14 assists in all competitions as well as walking away with Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Year award in the previous campaign, Nasri had drawn comparisons to the great Zidane as a scintillating playmaker with a gift for the precise pass. Debuting against West Bromwich Albion that August, he made an instant impression by scoring the only goal just four minutes into the match. The 2008-2009 season would have Nasri finish with seven goals and six assists as a winger. Although he missed out on a large part of the 2009-2010 season with a broken leg, Nasri was still able to make an impact with his club upon his return. His five goals (three of those in the Champions League) and four assists showed that he could be an asset.
So far this season, Nasri has been playing to his strong potential. A brace against West Bromwich as well as two penalty conversions against Tottenham in a Carling Cup match have shown his ability to turn a game around. His performance against Romania over the weekend in Euro 2012 qualifying was excellent as he was the orchestrator of many of Les Bleu’s scoring chances. While Cesc will retain his position when he comes back from injury, there is no mistaking that Nasri has shown himself worthy to be the stalwart in the midfield for Arsenal. Next season, there will be a new player in Cesc’s position, like it or not. Hopefully, it will be number 8.