Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Nasri: Flop or Not?

There seems to be a general consensus in media circles and amongst a section of City fans that Nasri has been a bit of a flop this season. There is no denying he hasn't set the world alight, but he was hardly in the running for World player of the year whilst at Arsenal either.

He has been criticised for going missing in games and not living up to the hype surrounding his £24m pound move to City in the summer. But has he really been that bad? We'll take a look at how he stacks up to other creative players from the 'usual' top clubs in the league.

First things first, who am I going to match him up against? I've chosen Silva, Mata, Modric,  Arteta, Kuyt and Nani. These are all creative midfield players who play for the Sky big 4 (Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, United) and the current media darling FC (Spurs). Of course Silva plays for the current league leaders.

I have tried to make sure each player plays a similar role and has played a decent number of games, although there are always going to be differences. Arteta and Modric generally play deeper than the others, while Nani usually used in wide areas. I had difficulty deciding Liverpool's player, Adam plays too deep, Downing is generally poor, so to be kind to Liverpool I chose Kuyt (no, honestly), who is an AM/FW. Nasri has played in at least 4 different positions though, AM/LCR and CM, and all players listed provide creative output for their teams.

One of the first things you will notice is that Nasri has had considerably less game time that the others (barring Kuyt). In fact he is the only one not to have actually appeared in 20 or more league games so far. The media would have you believe this is because he hasn't clicked at City and Mancini doesn't quite trust his ability to perform.

I beg to differ, David Silva was always going to the be the main man in the advanced midfield roles this season. Mancini knows Nasri's qualities having followed him whilst manager of Inter Milan, but he also has James Milner who can play in an advanced position who has different, yet equally important traits depending on the opposition. We have seen one or the other played on several occasions.

Lets not forget that Mancini also likes to tinker with the squad. Only 7 players in the entire squad have started 20 or more games so far in the league (now at the 25 game point). That leaves an average minimum of 4 places per match that are up for change.

Despite his obvious disadvantage in game time, his general stats don't look out of place alongside any of the other players.

All stats shown from here on (apart from reiterating goals and assists) are completed/successful averages per game (not attempted) in the Premier League.

Although defensive qualities aren't what creative players are measured by, even less so for more attacking players but they're part of the overall picture so we will have a look.

Unsurprisingly the players that play in the centre of midfield (Modric and Arteta) make more tackles than the players that play further forward. Silva, Kuyt and Nani are all fairly similar for tackles.

Of the more attacking 5 in general, Nasri is middle of the road overall, same number of tackles per game as Mata, more interceptions than Silva, Mata and Nani, but also the least number of clearances. Reading into the clearances a little more though, City have conceded the fewest number of chances of all teams in the league.

Now on to attacking stats. Over the past 3 seasons with Arsenal, Nasri has scored more than he has created (18 Goals, 8 Assists), with last season scoring an average of a goal every 3 league games. That has dropped to just under a goal every 5 (from appearances only)

If you look at the average goal/minutes over the last 3 years though, he was scoring every 370.8 minutes anyway. Compare that to 417.7 minutes per goal in his first season at City, it isn't particularly concerning. If I'm honest though, he could shoot a little more often when the opportunity presents itself.

One area where Nasri matches up very well is the dispossession and turnover stats. He actually loses the ball fewer times (2.6) per match than Silva (2.9), Mata (3.3), Modric (3.6), and Nani (4.1). It's no secret that his close control, ability to wriggle out of trouble and skip away from challenges has been one of his most prominent qualities throughout his career.

Considering this quality though, he rarely dribbles with the ball, and has the 2nd lowest average of the players compared.

The real bread and butter for any midfield player, whether attacking or not, is the ability to pass the ball effectively. The number of passes a player makes will partly depend on their position and the way the team plays. The more central a player is in midfield, the more touches of the ball they are likely to get and the more passes they are likely to make.

There are no real surprises when you look at the average number of passes per game each player makes. Arteta and Modric are well ahead of the others with them playing a more central role on the pitch. Admittedly, Arteta's 80.8 completed passes per game at a success rate of 90.6% is pretty impressive.

However, Nasri has actually got the highest success rate here with a fantastic 92.5% of his passes finding their intended recipient. Also bare in mind that he makes the same number of through balls as Mata and Modric and only marginally fewer than Silva it really is outstanding.

Nasri's key passes are also only behind Silva and Mata so he is creating a decent number of chances for others to score, and this is comparable with his assists.

Despite having less game time than any other, Nasri is only just behind Mata who has been on the pitch the equivalent of an extra 6 games. You could then argue that 4 of those assists came in City's 5-1 thrashing of Spurs (Nasri's debut), but even if you take those out he still only has 1 fewer than Modric who has had more time on the pitch than anyone else being compared here. Looking back at the key passes, it's not as though he isn't creating the chances for his team either.

At the end of the day, just as a goal is a goal, an assist is an assist and they all count for something, whether it be points or simply goal difference.

When it comes to the City squad, Nasri is 2nd in the assists rankings. Aguero, Milner and Richards are behind him with 5 each.

As I stated at the beginning of the article, Nasri hasn't been a world-beater this season, but looking at the figures I don't think we can really call him a flop. The fact I had to use Dirk Kuyt from Liverpool suggests something in itself about flops in the attacking mid department, not to mention certain people masquerading as strikers in the top half of the table.

A single season isn't long enough to judge whether a player is a flop or not. Even if a player has experience of the league, it doesn't neccessarily mean they will hit the ground running. Take a look at said strikers I hinted at earlier, we all know who they are, and Samir hasn't been any where near as bad as they have been in their positions.

There's still 13 games to play in the league, and who knows what will happen between now and then. If Nasri scores or assists the goal that wins City the league title will anyone really care whether he hasn't been quite as good as Silva? Let's face it, there aren't many who are!

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Twitter: @MikeWalshMCFC or @mcfcDSLeftFoot
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