If there’s one player who has benefited from Manuel Pellegrini’s arrival at Manchester City, it’s undoubtedly Samir Nasri.
A player who seemed on his way out last season, who had a damaged relationship with the fans and who struggled for any kind of consistency, is a player reborn this season.
The relationship between Nasri and former manager Roberto Mancini was, at the very least, strained.
Mancini was frustrated by Nasri’s propensity to drift out of games, spending too long on the periphery of matches. With his talent, Mancini believed, he should have been influencing games positively, rather than struggling to have an impact. He saw him as a key player for City who wasn’t giving enough.
Mancini was quoted as saying:
I would like to give him a punch. Because a player like him should play like this always.
Nasri later responded:
Mancini has shown a little proof of bad faith when he said he wanted to punch me. I've not had a good season, I know it, I'm aware of that. I am the first to be self-critical. But it's not true that I'm playing at 50 percent. I think the coach still doesn't handle English very well and sometimes uses expressions that aren't really suitable.
With the patience of the fans also running low—especially after Nasri’s poor attempt at being part of the wall defending Robin Van Persie’s free-kick in last season’s 3-2 derby defeat—it seemed for all the world he would be sold.
Fast forward a few months and he’s been one of City’s best players this term. The touch and verve has returned. He wants the ball again and, when he gets it, he’s producing pieces of skill that see him beat a man and find a pass. He’s been excellent.
Data provided by Squawka shows definitively that Nasri is more clinical in front of goal and is beating players with more consistency this season in the Premier League.
His chance conversion rate stands at 40 percent this season (two goals from five shots), up from 10.5 percent last season (two goals from 19 shots).
The sharpest rise comes in his ability to go past players. His take-on success rate stands at 73 percent in the opening eight games, a big improvement on his 57 percent last season, and a clear demonstration of the renewed confidence in his game.
His pass completion rate is an impressive 88 percent this season (down slightly from 91 percent in 2012/13), and he has supplied nine key passes already.
He is yet to assist a goal this season, though, and he will be keen to start contributing in that area.
Because of the options City have, only a few players are automatic starters. In the attacking positions, Sergio Aguero and David Silva have an absolute guaranteed starting berth when fit, but everyone else must accept time on the sidelines.
Nasri, therefore, will spend time on the bench, but his current form suggests he’ll be starting most matches.
The statistics back up the general feeling that Nasri has made an excellent start to the new season. What was always clear, even when his form deserted him, is that he is a technically excellent player.
With his renewed desire and positivity, he is once again at the forefront of matches, having a positive effect on City's play.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.
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