x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Arsenal finally signs Samir Nasri

The 21-year-old France international has finally joined Arsenal on a long-term contract after weeks of negotiations.

Samir Nasri, foreground, fights for the ball with Edouard Cisse of Besiktas during their Champions League Group A soccer match at Inonu Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey. Premier League club Arsenal has completed the signing of the France midfielder.
Samir Nasri, foreground, fights for the ball with Edouard Cisse of Besiktas during their Champions League Group A soccer match at Inonu Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey. Premier League club Arsenal has completed the signing of the France midfielder.

So the transfer saga is finally over. Samir Nasri, the 21-year-old France international, has finally joined Arsenal on a long-term contract after negotiations lasting nearly two months. Marseille always appeared willing to sell, but Gunners fans, who've watched Mathieu Flamini leave and are braced for other big-name departures, will be pleased to have finally got their man. Is Nasri really the 'new Zidane'? That's the tag he's had to wear since bursting into hometown club Olympique de Marseille's first-team four years ago - but in truth the comparison is misguided, in one respect at least.

Nasri shares Zidane's Algerian heritage, was born in the same southern French city and plays in a similar position - but he's unlikely to get anywhere near the heights of the best French footballer of the past 20 years. Another widely-reported myth is that Nasri is a winger. He played on both flanks at times for Marseille, but more through necessity than desire. The young playmaker is at his best operating behind the strikers, from where his short, sharp passing ties opponents in knots. So if you're expecting to see him at the Emirates Stadium dash down the flanks and swing over cross after cross, you'll be disappointed.

The boy from Marseille has packed so much into his career already. His league debut came less than three months after his 17th birthday and his first cap for France and Young Player of the Year award at 19. In that sense, he's a French equivalent of Gunners teammate Cesc Fabregas, one month his senior. A bout of meningitis laid him low last year, so he knows how to deal with adversity, too. The most telling phrase Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has used to describe his new player is "margin for progressing further". That's the key to this deal because, like so many Wenger signings, Nasri is almost certain to get better in the hothouse Premier League.

He comes from a good family and has benefited from the wise counsel of his father Hamid, who acts as one of his advisers alongside agent Jean-Pierre Bernes. It was no surprise last December when France Football awarded Nasri their annual prize for excellent media relations. The magazine described him as a "model young man ... who is immensely gifted but keeps his feet on the ground." If he has a weakness, it's his scoring record. A rate of just one goal every 11 league matches is disappointing for an attacking midfielder, although his tally of six in 30 games for Marseille last season shows he's heading in the right direction - and anybody who saw the youngster's beautiful volley in Marseille's 4-3 win over Strasbourg on the final day of last season, which helped the club clinch a place in next season's Champions League, knows he has no concerns over his technique.

The problems appear mental - but it seems almost certain than Nasri will grow in confidence in his new environment among more technically gifted and competitively robust teammates. After all, that's the "margin for progression" his manager was talking about. Robert Pires and Flamini have successfully trodden the path from Marseille to Arsenal. Nasri is likely to make it a hat-trick.