What should West Ham expect from Samir Nasri?
Background Photo: Daniel, CC by 2.0
Sorry Gooners, Le Petit Prince is back in town. Samir Nasri is in the news, this time for the right reason. After a few turbulent years blighted by injuries and a drug ban, the Frenchman is back in the Premier League, albeit as a free agent. His mission: to secure a contract at West Ham.
Nasri went off the radar owing to an 18-month suspension for taking an intravenous drip treatment in the United States. The ex-Arsenal playmaker breached WADA rules. Initially slapped with a six-month, his punishment was later extended another 12 months following an unsuccessful appeal.
The Frenchman has been without a club since mutually terminating his contract with Antalyaspor in January. He is hoping to salvage whatever is left of his dehydrated career at the London Stadium. Should Manuel Pellegrini trust him with the requested £80k-per-week contract? If he does, here's what the Chilean might get in return.
The prospect of adding a player with Nasri's pedigree is tantalising. A seasoned Premier League campaigner, he can navigate the English terrain more deftly than a nurse slipping a needle into your vein. Three solid years in North London with Arsenal were followed by a prosperous six in the blue-clad half of Manchester where he clinched the league twice.
Since Dimitri Payet’s controversial exit in 2017, the Irons have sweated to find a flair player capable of tranquilising opposition with silky touches and dribbles. Manuel Lanzini possesses those traits but flaunts them only in the treatment room. Meanwhile, Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson are just too limited in style to even attempt.
Blessed with speed, grit, a broad range of passes and an eye for the goal, Nasri offers a wholly different option. He is capable of playing anywhere in the middle, on the wings or even as the second striker. The Frenchman is exactly the sort of final-third risk-taker who could successfully share the attacking burden if granted the license. Not endowed with visceral power, he makes up for that with a light touch and a penchant for improvisation.
West Ham's midfield is reduced to bare bones due to injuries. Jack Wilshere, Yarmolenko, Carlos Sanchez, and Lanzini are all sidelined. The Hammers are short of personnel in both central and attacking midfield. Le Petit Prince can fill in anywhere across the park with aplomb. As long as he gets the ball, he will influence games.
Pellegrini pretty much knows all about Nasri's innate talent due to their time at the Etihad. Despite the hefty wage demands, the Chilean may take the gamble. As a free agent, there's no upfront payment to concern the West Ham bean counters. A deal until the end of the season limits the Hammers' liability if things go wrong.
The not so good
Nasri is an infectious player blessed with prodigious talent but similarly cursed with an ability to plant discord. His famous outburst with the French national team, Jamie Vardy’s headbutt while at Sevilla and endless bickerings with Arsenal faithful are just a few of his numerous escapades.
Yet inconsistency and match fitness may just be the biggest bane. Nasri can be blisteringly brilliant today and a ghost on the fringes tomorrow. Following 18 months away from the game, match fitness will take time.
Verdict: As long as Nasri avoids being yesterday’s man, he will flourish in London. In the situation where he doesn't, the Hammers can count their loss and let him go in the summer.