Film Focus: Manchester City Star Samir Nasri Makes World Cup Case vs. West Ham

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IMay 12, 2014

Manchester City's Samir Nasri, left, celebrates with teammate Pablo Zabaleta after scoring against West Ham during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and West Ham United at the Etihad Stadium,  Manchester, England, Sunday, May 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Rui Vieira/Associated Press

In the end, Manchester City's title-clinching triumph over West Ham United was a procession. The Hammers had been expected to put up a fight, in the manner of most Sam Allardyce sides, but succumbed meekly to a 2-0 defeat.

When needed in the final weeks of their title challenge, City found big players coming up with the required goods and, on this occasion, it was Frenchman Samir Nasri who came to the fore.

The attacking midfielder is a divisive figure, both on and off the pitch, but finished the season with a Man of the Match display. His goal, meanwhile, took his Premier League tally to a creditable seven (plus seven assists) for the season.

Despite that, though, he seems unlikely to attend the World Cup this summer. Per's Sacha Pisani, Nasri told Canal+: 

I think the dye is cast. I respect [Didier Deschamps's] choice. I'll watch the World Cup on TV.

If starting games in a club like Manchester City and winning two titles isn't enough, too bad, I won't regret anything.

French national team head coach Didier Deschamps will name his party for the competition on Tuesday, and all indications are that Nasri will not be involved.

Having come back from a three-match ban for insulting a journalist at Euro 2012, not to mention his role in the ructions of World Cup 2010, Nasri was singled out by Deschamps after a poor playoff performance away in Ukraine.

Since the turn of the year he has been excellent for City, but there would appear to be little way back with Deschamps and France. However, it did not stop him putting on a show on the final day of the campaign.

Playing from a nominal starting position on the right, Nasri was an elusive figure throughout. Besides his goal, he created a phenomenal seven scoring chances for his side, completed 95 percent of his 88 passes and provided his strikers with six pinpoint crosses.

Nasri's performance was a complete demonstration of just how effective his tucked-in role can be, with David Silva performing a similar function on the opposite side of the midfield.

Manchester City's narrow midfield
Manchester City's narrow midfieldSky Sports pictures, @chris_elastico annotations

Playing without natural wide men can leave City devoid of width if their full-backs are unable to push forward. However, as on Sunday, it can also make Nasri and Silva very difficult to pick up.

The build-up to Nasri's goal, eventually finished with a fine 25-yard strike, shows everything one needs to know about the Frenchman at his best.

From the start of the move to its termination, his movement is incessant. Whether on the ball or not, he is excellent at avoiding detection, coming into the game and then seeking space once more.

Nasri has drifted to the left at the start of the move
Nasri has drifted to the left at the start of the moveSky Sports pictures, @chris_elastico annotations

Having returned to the right he passes to Yaya Toure and pulls into space
Having returned to the right he passes to Yaya Toure and pulls into spaceSky Sports pictures, @chris_elastico annotations

Given time, he drives a shot into the far corner
Given time, he drives a shot into the far cornerSky Sports pictures, @chris_elastico annotations

As goals go, it was a spectacular way to set your side en route to a title-sealing win.

It is that ability to find space that makes Nasri so difficult to deal with. Midfielders are normally occupied with players of their own to mark, while full-backs are reluctant to follow him in-field. If communication in defence is poor, he can creep into dangerous areas unopposed.

Even in the opening minutes of the fixture with West Ham—a team well regarded for their defensive excellence—he was able to move into dangerous areas at the edge of the box without anybody picking up his movements.

Sky Sports pictures, @chris_elastico annotations

When fully focused, there can be no doubting Nasri's ability or importance to Manchester City over the course of their two recent title-winning seasons.

Deschamps will have his reasons for not selecting Nasri if, indeed, he does choose to leave him out of the selection on Tuesday. The issues may well be non-footballing, which—if it is believed he could be disruptive—would be entirely justified.

Nasri's final-day performance, though, has put his name in the headlines once more and only served to add to the pressure on Deschamps. The question is, then, whether the talented but problematic talent is worth a gamble.

His club manager and many others who know him would seem to think so.


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