Nasri picks up the baton to conduct City's title run-in

French playmaker's form can win the league, writes Sam Wallace

Click to follow
The Independent Online

This time last year Samir Nasri was just emerging from the abrupt and traumatic end to Arsenal's involvement in three cup competitions, although one suspects he had decided long before then that he would be leaving the club.

One year on and it is hard to deny the move away from Arsenal he so brusquely forced through last summer is promising to pay off.

One year on and Nasri is still involved in a title race. It might be the only trophy which Manchester City have left to chase but it is rather more than Arsenal have to occupy themselves with.

On Wednesday night it was Nasri's stand-out performance against Chelsea that culminated in the winning goal, the highlight of his recent run of form.

There can be little doubt the obstinacy with which Nasri insisted he leave Arsenal last summer, threatening to sit out the final year of his deal, left a bitter taste in the mouth of some at the north London club.

It epitomised Nasri's hardline attitude: that of the child prodigy who has always known what he wants in his career and is not afraid to stand his ground to get it.

City paid £25m for a player just 12 months away from being a free agent in the hope they would be getting a Premier League star who could hit the ground running.

In the event it has taken Nasri much of the season to settle in at City but when he received the return pass from Carlos Tevez on Wednesday and slipped the ball past Petr Cech, he certainly looked like he had arrived.

In the post-match press conference, in a rare moment of praise, Roberto Mancini, left, said that Nasri could be for City what Xavi and Andres Iniesta are for Barcelona.

The City manager was right in one regard – Nasri is a confidence player who needs reassurance, although even the player himself balked at this comparison. "I don't know. At the moment they are on top, and I am 24," he said. "I know that if I have confidence I can get better.

"I am someone who works with love. I like to have a 'dad' with me, then I can give everything, and that is what I am starting to feel here, that everyone is giving me the confidence – the owners and the manager. I can't say I will be like Iniesta, it would be silly to say that. But I can do my own thing." Could Mancini, the distant authoritarian, be that father figure? "He is the same age as my father, so he can be."

Nasri has not been as peripheral as some might assume this season for City. He has started 18 Premier League games, which is the ninth-highest total for any outfield player, and his goal against Chelsea was his fourth in the league for the season, just one fewer than David Silva.

It was Silva's role of playmaker that Nasri assumed on Wednesday.

As the season reaches spring, Silva's high standards are undoubtedly slipping and he struggled again to break into the game on Wednesday while Nasri was more assertive. It was Silva who carried City through the early part of the season, but it may well be Nasri who takes them home.

This is the man who stood up to the older generation in the France squad in a row over who sat where in the team coach so there is no shortage of self-belief. "We have believed in ourselves since the first game of the season, but we showed great character against Lisbon [in the Europa League eight days ago] and again," he said. "It's a signal to United that we are here and we will be here until the end.

"You know what, I hope they [Manchester United] win all their games, and that we win all of ours, so we can play a final here [on 30 April]. "It will be fantastic for the fans, and for us as well. I am sure we can win the last nine games. It's as simple as that. And if we do it, we will be champions."