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Samir Nasri’s Lengthy Absence Could Unhinge Manchester City’s Title Chances

Samir Nasri’s injury in the second half of a 2-0 win against Newcastle will undoubtedly make Manchester City’s title chances less likely considering the Frenchman will be out of action for eight weeks.  The creative midfielder has been in scintillating form recently, and without him in the side, the club will have to either change the way they play or force his replacement to try and replicate his movement and influence without the same set of skills.

With Manchester City facing a much tougher run-in than their nearest title rivals (Manchester City face six of the top seven sides away from home for the remainder of the season as compared to Chelsea facing just two of those sides away from home, and Arsenal facing four away from home), the loss of Nasri very well could cripple the title opportunity for the Blues.

The depth of Manchester City is often lauded in the press, but as we have seen earlier in the season, if you take a key component out of the side, like Vincent Kompany, the Blues are prone to struggle. Sergio Aguero’s injury has proven less critical to the club partly because Edin Dzeko has historically been more reliable in difficult away fixtures than Aguero, and with the bulk of matches away from home during this period, the injury may have actually worked in City’s favor.

In the previous two seasons, Nasri has cut an enigmatic figure, alternating between indifferent on-pitch spectator to mistake-prone midfielder. In between there have been moments of sheer brilliance, like his two-man move with Carlos Tevez to defeat Chelsea in March of 2012. But those moments proved to be few and far between, prompting former manager Roberto Mancini to declare he wanted to punch Nasri in March of last year. The Italian frequently preferred James Milner, a less talented but more disciplined player to the creative French midfielder.

Since Manuel Pellegrini has taken over at Manchester City however, Nasri not only has elevated his game but has become arguably the most influential and creative midfielder in English football. Playing on the left side of midfield in the Blues 4-2-2-2 formation, the Frenchman often pinches inside creating a dynamic triangular partnership with left-back Alexsander Kolarov and Alvaro Negredo. The outstanding scoring record of Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure may have gotten the most headlines this season, it is this left-sided trio that have created the majority of important attacking moves for the Blues over the course of the last two months, a period where the club is unbeaten in all competitions. Nasri’s creativity and movement off the ball is at the heart of these moves (see image below).

Replacing Nasri will either be James Milner or Jesus Navas, both players with a completely different skill set. Navas is an out-and-out winger who, because of Pellegrini’s system, comes inside often but finds himself dispossessed or crowded out of space in the middle. Milner, a player that fit Mancini’s more defensive oriented setup well, has been a lethal counter-attacking threat for the club this season but is not in any way a creative force on the level of Nasri.

Either option is a major dropoff from the Frenchman and will undoubtedly slow down the Blues attack. Nasri’s injury will without question have an impact on the title race, but with only eight weeks on the shelf, it is entirely possible he will return for the most important fixtures of the season.

Editor’s note: For the latest City news, analysis and opinion, visit the Manchester City team page.

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  1. Adam

    January 15, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    C’mon people have some faith! Look at what happened when our star striker went down for 8 weeks. We didn’t lose a match and only had 2 draws in all comps. City will be fine and see this through. Too much depth to let this upset our apple cart.

  2. Jim

    January 14, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    Nasri has been brilliant for City this season and he will be missed. Silva has been inconsistent and unless he reclaims his form City will be hurt in all 4 competitions they are still in.

    With so many games that City will be involved in till the end of the season someone of Nasri’s quality will be missed. Without Nasri I can see City lose out on the league title.

  3. bennett311

    January 14, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Assuming Clichy can stay fit, why not put Kolarov in that spot?

    This hurts, but every team deals with injuries. MCFC squad should be able to cope with this.

  4. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    January 14, 2014 at 10:53 am

    I am hopeful Lopes gets both cup matches coming up in the next two weeks. Tomorrow against Blackburn in the FA Cup and the second leg vs West Ham in the League Cup.

    We aren’t loaning him out evidently so he needs games. He’s now 19, time to take the training wheels off and give him a proper run out.

  5. ryanb

    January 14, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Jovetic sitting behind aguero or negredo would help solve this with letting navas play wide on the right and silva roam. Or perhaps letting marcos lopes fill in and shake things up having played well in the recent match he was given minutes. still a big loss but i think city have shown their versatility in formations and midfield looks especially. the bigger issue is giving rest more than options in formations.

  6. christian

    January 14, 2014 at 8:44 am

    I still don’t care for Nasri. He has moments but they’re far and few between.

    Move Silva to the left and let Navas take over full time on the right.

    Overall this would be an amazing time to fit in Jovetic but #wheresJovetic

    • Evan

      January 14, 2014 at 10:11 am

      You “don’t care for Nasri”??

      He has been one of City’s best players this season and just won player of the month. Have you watched city at all this season?

    • Flyvanescence

      January 14, 2014 at 10:45 am

      Lol at the #wheresjovetic. I was thinking that too.

  7. Flyvanescence

    January 14, 2014 at 7:57 am

    That Tevez one-two against Chelsea still gives me goosebumps.

    Honestly i dont know who is going to fill Nasri’s role. We dont have another left-sided attacker. Milner and Navas both play better on the right. Silva is best in the middle but better on the right than left.

    Milner has played on the left this year to some success though. I would go 4-3-3 with silva in midfield and a front 3 of Navas, Negredo and Aguero.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      January 14, 2014 at 10:51 am

      That 1-2 move with Tevez was arguably my favorite moment of the title winning season. At that point we were dead, we HAD to win that game, and that goal did it, kept us alive essentially for the Aguero heroics a month a a half later.

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