Arsenal's biggest challenge for the rest of the season will be to cope without Cesc Fabregas. He has been a massive force through the midfield and, more importantly, scored vital goals to keep Arsenal in the title race.
Fabregas gave his all against Barcelona and kept Arsenal in the Champions League, which was a distant dream after the hour mark in the first leg. Now, it's up to the rest of the team to continue the good work that Fabregas had done over the course of the season.
The man to step up and fill the big void left by Fabregas is Samir Nasri. The Frenchman is capable of doing that but his consistency is not yet proven. He can dribble past defenders, has a strong finish, and most importantly has a sound "football brain."
Nasri's contribution in the second half of the season is praiseworthy. The biggest test, however, will be the last few weeks of the ongoing season. His maturity, conviction, and abilities will come under the scanner and if he succeeds, it would ensure him a permanent spot in the Arsenal squad.
It all starts with the Barcelona game. Although it will take a miracle to beat Barcelona in the second leg, Nasri should exhibit his abilities against the Catalan giants to gain attention. Possibly, a good performance against the world's best football team would ensure him a place in the World cup squad.
He can orchestrate the play and he has shown that against FC Porto. The question, however, is can he do that against a mighty side like Barcelona? Even if he fails it shouldn't vex him too much. The Premier League is still within reach and he should perform to the best of his abilities to make sure Arsenal win all the remaining five games.
He's more of an all-rounder. He has pace and that enables him to operate through the wings whenever needed. His crossing abilities are stunning. He can defend too and always works hard to win the ball back.
His critics may not accept it, but I believe he can grow into a better player than Fabregas. He has more dimensions to his game, and as a midfielder his dribbling skills are amazing.
What makes Fabregas so dangerous is his courage and self-belief in big games. He's composed and never pushes the panic button even in adversity. He can singlehandedly destroy opponents. In addition to that, he's a great leader on the pitch, and he's successfully managed to get the best out of his team-mates this season.
And these are the qualities that Nasri must learn quickly if he ever wants to make a mark at the highest level.
Fabregas' injury has opened a new door for Nasri to make a mark in Wenger's goodbook and he should do it stylishly. Maybe with a match-winning hat trick against Barcelona. Who knows.
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