Search

Match-winner Nasri relishes his Zinedine Zidane challenge

PUBLISHED: 11:34 19 August 2008 | UPDATED: 15:18 07 September 2010

With one Marseillais vacating Arsenal s engine room in the summer, the pressure was mounting on another native of the southern French city before he s even kicked a ball in anger for Les Rouges of north London. Samir Nasri responded by scoring Arsenal s f

With one Marseillais vacating Arsenal's engine room in the summer, the pressure was mounting on another native of the southern French city before he's even kicked a ball in anger for Les Rouges of north London.

Samir Nasri responded by scoring Arsenal's first Premiership goal of the season - after only four minutes - to defeat West Brom at the Emirates Stadium in Saturday's otherwise unremarkable opener.

Nasri's £13 million arrival from Olympique de Marseille went some way to softening the blow of losing Mathieu Flamini to AC Milan on a Bosman, but the two enjoy very different roles, both in club football and for Les Bleus.

In Ligue 1, Nasri's pace and skills delighted the fanatical and demanding fans at the Stade Velodrome. They voted him player of the year in 2007 - and he was named French young player of the year that same season.

Flamini's best work was done quietly and with the minimum of fuss. The new Gunner's more eye-catching style should increase the decibel levels at The Emirates.

"I believe Samir will be a big, big success at Arsenal," Philippe Auclair, of the respected France Football magazine, told Ham&High Series Sport.

"What does he have? Superb technique, I mean really good technique indeed. He's a two-footed player and his flexibility is a key attribute - the fans will enjoy watching him. He can play equally comfortably on either flank and all across the line."

Nasri, who like many in the hot and humid Mediterranean port is of Algerian extraction, hopes his move to north London will leave an indelible mark on his life - and allow his considerable talents to blossom.

To compound the pressure, he is also being compared favourably to Marseille's most famous export and hero to the thousands of North Africans who inhabit the city's suburbs - Zinedine Zidane.

But rather than inhibit him, Nasri so far appears to be relishing his tag as "the new Zidane".

"Arsenal is a club that leave a trace for life," he said after completing his move to The Emirates. "Besides," he added with a twinkle in his eye, "they have assured me I will have a lot of fun in the Premier League. They play and I love playing."

Auclair is a big fan. "Nasri is stronger than people give him credit for back in France," said Auclair. "Wow, you give him a 50-50 to compete and he will normally come out with the ball. He looks slight but he is not.

"Arsene Wenger and Gilles Grimandi have been watching him for a long time and he has certainly convinced them.''

Wenger is delighted to have finally signed a player coveted by many of Europe's big guns in the summer. He says his young compatriot's potential is outstanding.

"He is young, quick and technically an outstanding player," said Wenger.

"He has shown great potential with his performances for Marseille and the French national team over the past two seasons and he will add great quality to our squad."

And if the ZZ tag back home has not increased the expectancy, Nasri should take note that Arsenal's last two major No.8s both made scoring debuts - and went on to become club legends.

Ian Wright and Freddie Ljungberg are two very tough acts to follow.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ham&High. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Hampstead Highgate Express