Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nasri's Improvement Helps Arsenal Cover The Cracks

Arsenal 2-1 Fulham

It's always exciting when you see a player of huge potential start to realise it.

Samir Nasri has been Arsenal's player of the season so far, adding consistency and goals to his game.

After the opening day's poor showing at Liverpool, I bemoaned the lack of midfield "runners" in the Arsenal squad- it too often seemed that everybody wanted the ball to feet, and nobody made clever runs off the ball. Credit to Arsene Wenger, he saw in Nasri the latent potential to add this aspect to his game:

I'm happy because he had a game that was, at the start, only based on coming to the ball.
But now he has more variation in his game: turns, runs in behind without the ball, and as well coming to the ball and taking it to his feet.

Nasri's newfound directness has also triggered an improvement in Arshavin. The Russian is less inclined to look sideways than most of his team mates, and his passing has looked more incisive this season. Both Nasri and Chamakh have contributed to that. On Saturday, Arshavin twice released Nasri for goalscoring opportunities; once for the first goal, and before that when Nasri poked the ball wide of goal.

The winner was the result of a pass Van Persie probably wouldn't have made a few years ago. He had the chance to shoot on the edge of the box but instead pushed a clever pass to the onrushing Nasri.

Both goals showcased the Frenchman's confidence, composure and close control. But confidence and composure are not words you'd associate with the Arsenal team as a whole. While early on they looked like swamping Fulham, again the swagger was all-too-easily punctured. Squillaci and Koscielny summed up their Arsenal careers so far by crashing into each other. Koscielny was concussed, as it turned out, but failed to do the professional thing and lie down for treatment. As he stumbled and staggered, Dempsey found Kamara whose finish was, on this occasion, unerring- his profligacy would later aid Arsenal.

Koscielny was replaced by Djourou, which would have pleased many, but Squillaci and his new partner parted like the Red Sea for Kamara before half-time, and Fabianski had to save Arsenal from facing yet another home deficit.

Nasri's magic was vital- either side could have come out on top, which is pretty damning when you look at this Fulham side. And it is, by extension, pretty damning for the Premiership in general that this Arsenal side is top, because they simply cannot defend.

Slip-ups in the next two games- must win vs Partizan and must do better vs United- will do more damage than the one that was rendered a footnote by Nasri's brilliance.

No comments: