Let’s put bitterness and recrimination to one side for a moment and accept that Samir Nasri is quite a good player.
His close control is excellent, he can beat players for fun, he likes attacking the danger areas and he has an eye for goal.
On average, based on last season, he’ll provide an assist once every 10 games, which made him an important player for Arsenal.
Admittedly, not as important as Fabregas, Arshavin, Van Persie, Walcott, Rosicky and Wilshere, who all had more assists last term.
He’ll also get you a goal once every five games, based on his scoring record for Arsenal, which isn’t bad. If he starts, say, 15 games for Manchester City this season he’ll notch up a grand total of three.
He is effective out wide but, if given the greater responsibility of a central midfield role, is left badly floundering as we found out several times last year.
I would have preferred him to stay at Arsenal because he is a decent attacking option, although far from being world-class.
For some of the reasons outlined above, you can see why Man City bought the little Frenchman. They have been accused of having more graft than guile and, on his good days (which were few and far between when it really counted in the second half of last season) he has the skills to unlock an obdurate defence.
But for the money spent on him, City might well have bought any one of several talented outside forwards (Juan Mata, Gareth Bale and Franck Ribery to name but three). Instead they doggedly pursued Nasri all summer long (indeed from January, if some reports are to be believed).
In my mind it raises a question.
City have the resources to buy anyone, so why spend so much effort on a player who has been not much above average apart from one purple patch that lasted less than half a season?
They don’t really need his footballing gifts. It’s not like he’s a game changer for them (as Aguero may turn out to be).
Which brings me to my theory:
City are embarking on this season with aspirations, of course, to become champions of England. But also with a pragmatic ambition to, at the very least, stay in the Champions League with a top four finish.
If Financial Fair Play proves to have any teeth, City will need ECL income if they are to continue to compete at the top-level (and pay the stratospheric wage bill they have accrued).
So, to my mind, a crucial element in their move for Nasri was to weaken one of their rivals for the top four slots: namely, us.
I suspect the same motivation behind their acquisition of Clichy, too.
In a summer when everyone in the know in football was aware that Cesc was undoubtedly leaving Arsenal, I believe the temptation to kick us when we were down was too much for City to resist.
Mancini must feel that he has severely weakened Arsenal, and in the process gained yet another decent squad player in Nasri. Money, of course, is no object. I’m not going to criticise City for it. It’s great tactics – and Machiavelli (no, he didn’t play with Mancini at Sampdoria) would certainly approve.
The funny thing is that I think the Nasri move will backfire. He is clearly a disputatious fellow, as his arguments in the French camp and in the Arsenal dressing room give testament to.
He will bring that attitude to Eastlands, and may well leave behind a more united team at Arsenal. Certainly the spirit shown in the games against Udinese and Liverpool indicates that something positive is happening at The Arse.
However good the individuals were in our squad last season, they had collectively developed a losing mentality. The departures of Nasri, Clichy, Cesc and others have given us the chance to shake up the mood in the squad, bringing in new players not tainted by that negativity.
We won’t really miss the error-prone Clichy (top professional though he was for us) and Gervinho already looks like a more than capable replacement for Nasri – and that’s before we’ve even seen anything of Ryo and Oxo.
I may be wrong. Nasri may have a storming season for City. If he does I will not wish him well, because he has moved only for money and has shown a lack of class in his comments about his former club.
But it’s more likely City have Adebayor Mk II on their hands, and they’re welcome to him.