Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nasri: Dangerous Game

Word is that Arsenal have already rejected a bid of almost 20 million for the wantaway Frenchman, from Manchester United, and told them to come back with 5 million more.

It's a daring ploy, because 20 million is already a hell of a lot of money for a player entering the final year of his contract. Even if he is wonderfully talented. United may draw the line there.

But perhaps the point is to lure Manchester City, who would of course be more obviously willing to part with a substantial sum.

For Nasri personally, United would be the more obvious fit. Alex Ferguson would grant him far more attacking freedom than would Roberto Mancini.

Money may talk on City's behalf, but if playing style and prestige are a concern, then United ought to be Nasri's first choice.

Either way, his likely departure is an ominous sign for Arsenal. All of the clubs linked with his signature- United, Chelsea, and City- finished above Arsenal last season, and all are looking to strengthen while for the Gunners, there is only a struggle to stand still. Genuine, lasting progress on the pitch has been elusive for some time, and as long as the squad is in flux, with some of its better players so often leaving for new pastures, it would be unrealistic to expect trophies or glory.

As it stands, this is the summer that Arsenal's true standing in the game really hit home. There were hopes that the Emirates Stadium would help elevate Arsenal to a higher plane, and that may still be so, but so far it is a slow, laborious process. The lack of any injection of cash from a member of the board, the lack of megabucks sponsorship deals, and the lack, until this summer, of clever commercial initiatives to open up new markets, has ensured that Arsenal's progress as a club has been minimal, in terms of their financial power. As Myles Palmer says, at Highbury, they were the world's biggest small club, and at the Emirates, they are the world's smallest big club.

So, sadly, although his own behaviour has been despicable, especially when contrasted with that of Fabregas and Clichy in similar situations, there remains an element of truth to Nasri's claims that his desire to leave stems from a sense of ambition. There seems, for the next few years at least, a concrete limit to what Arsenal can achieve. United and City both won trophies last year and have the potential to win many more. And if money is a factor, so what? Only in football are people condemned for wanting to move to a job with better money.

We may debate Nasri's class and his character, and whether he has really earned the right to demand astronomical wages, but the fact that he has attracted the interest of three better teams speaks for itself. He has great quality and the basis for his desire to leave is fairly sound. The way he has conducted himself, however, leaves a bitter taste.

But that's the way of Arsenal in recent years. One season's hero is that summer's wantaway villain. Wenger's frugal policy has not bred success, and that perhaps is forgivable. But nor has it bred loyalty in his best players. So he will spend more on potential, develop that potential into another star, the star will decide he's too bright for the Emirates, and the cycle will continue.

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