Monday, June 27, 2011

Fabregas Leaves and Nasri Stays?

It has been suggested in some quarters that Arsene Wenger would reluctantly accept one of Barca's borderline-insulting bids for our wantaway captain if Samir Nasri would finally commit to a new deal.

It's generally believed that Nasri's best position is the one that Fabregas has been playing in. He would definitely prefer it to playing out wide, and so there is even a possibility that the loss of Fabregas would help persuade the Frenchman to stay.

That said, he has surely sullied his relationship with the Arsenal fans through his behaviour this summer. Fabregas has remained dignified throughout the last year or so. We all know he wants to go. I think he deserves to go. It makes me sad to say it, but he's too good for Arsenal. He deserves to win the kind of trophies that he is unlikely to win at Arsenal.

Despite all that, he has not rocked the boat, and he has not handed in a transfer request.

Nasri, off the back of a season which was one half brilliant and one near-anonymous, is apparently looking for more money, and also flirting with the affections of a very bitter rival in Manchester United. He has been fairly brash about the whole affair, and some might say this is indicative of a petulant character.

People enjoyed his fued with William Gallas, because Gallas is viewed with disdain by most Arsenal fans, but Nasri does seem overly cocky for someone who, like practically all of his Arsenal team mates, has achieved nothing.

In the summer of 2008, after a superb goalscoring season, Emmanuel Adebayor indulged in some self-promotion on the transfer market, and although he did stay for one more year, he was often booed mercilessly by his own unforgiving fans. Although Nasri has not been quite as shameless in touting himself to other clubs, it will be interesting to see how the fans treat him should he still be at the Emirates in August.

Will he play out the final year, as Flamini did? He surely won't be allowed to. Wenger will want the situation resolved soon. He would hate to lose a player that he bought for more than 10 million and not even receive a transfer fee.

But to lose Fabregas and Nasri in one summer, and without much chance, considering Wenger's usual spending policy, of bringing in replacements of equal calibre, will raise yet more questions as to where exactly the club is going.

One last note: the idea that Nasri could replace Fabregas is very contentious. If creativity is measured by the ability to create chances for team mates, statistics show that Fabregas is the most creative player across the top leagues of Europe. Outside of the team he wants to join, he is arguably the world's best midfield player, certainly one of the very best passers.

Nasri is a very different player. He is a better dribbler than Fabregas but has nothing like the Spaniard's vision or passing ability. If Arsene Wenger hopesto replace Fabregas from within- and it is a viable, if risky, option- there are a number of possibilities, but all would entail a slight change of emphasis and style.

Arshavin, Nasri, Ramsey, the near-forgotten Rosicky and even Wilshere would enjoy playing in the role that the captain fills in the current formation. None of them are close to Fabregas, however, in terms of consistently incisive passing.

Nasri is more of a tricky, individual player. Arshavin is a direct dribbler, and also a goal threat, but Wenger has never given him a chance in a central role, and with his apparent decline over the last season, it's unlikely to happen now. Ramsey might play off the front in a style more similar to Steven Gerrard than Fabregas. Wilshere may be the closest thing Arsenal have to another Fabregas but his performances in a more withdrawn role have been so convincing that Wenger is unlikely to upset his development with a positional shift.

There is also the possibility that Wenger could switch back to some sort of 4-4-2. It's easy to forget that Wenger used to be a 4-4-2 disciple. Robin Van Persie would relish the chance to play a role similar to the one Rooney adopted behind Hernandez for much of last season- and the one his fellow Dutchman, the great Dennis Bergkamp, played with such distinction in his years at Arsenal.

Alternatively, and this is one I'd like to see tried, Van Persie could play up top with Arshavin floating around behind him. But the fact is, with so many players who prefer to play as the central creative force in a midfield three, and the lingering question over whether we have the players to play wide in a 4-4-2, Wenger is unlikely to deviate from the formation used last season.

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