28 March 2014

With Silva suffering, the pressure grows on Na$ri

A report in The Guardian suggests that David Silva, Man City's midfield maestro, picked up an unspecified injury during their midweek match with Man U. With Sergio Agüero also out, Man City will be looking to others to create chances and drive the offense, and they can probably ill-afford to rest Silva. However, considering their position and future-fixtures, a rest may be necessary. With two games in hand over Chelsea, and with a tough trip to Anfield looming, I wouldn't be surprised to see Silva sit. If he does, this just might thrust an old Gooner favorite—Samir Nasri—front and center, if not on the pitch then in the spotlight. Whether he can bear up under the pressure of filling Silva's boots is one thing; to do so under the reception he'll likely get at the Emirates is another question entirely.

Samir, we hardly knew ye.
First, Silva. As we well know, he might be one of the most creative forces in the Prem. A stunning 3.8 key-passes per game, far and away the most in the Prem, only scratch the surface of his creative ingenuity, intelligence, and sublimity. Touré may command more attention with his swashbuckling runs, and Agüero may get the headlines with his coring, but Silva is like a puppeteer, pulling unseen strings, manipulating and momitoring all movements and motions, weaving moments of wonder that all too often subsume themselves to the more-domineering if not dynamic moments that themselves depended on his delivery in the first place. Should he be hobbled, then, or outright injured, Man City may then struggle to create the chances that they've been so good at finishing all season.

Which then heaps pressure on Nasri. He may be called upon to move to the middle in order. There are few other players in Man City's side that can imitate, not to mention match, Silva's grace and influence. I'd call Nasri a poor-man's Silva, but that might flatter him by half—and give short shrift to his wages as well. As we well remember, on his day, Nasri can be a potent creative force, dribbling and passing with intent and incisiveness, showing flair and élan, and it's not for nothing that we once saw him as part of our own midfield of the future. However, well, we know what happens next. He Cashley-ed.

Now, this won't be the first time that he's returned to the Emirates since his departure, but it's not as if he or fans have simply decided to move on. Even if he has, there's bound to be more butterflies in the stomach than for most other matches. Between the pressure of trying to replace Silva and the hostility that some 60,000 Gooners can bring to bear, it's a situation fraught with peril. Frankly, Nasir doesn't strike me as one who possesses the kind of inner peace or mature determination to respond with the kind of performance his squad will need. I'm not suggesting he'd respond with an Adebayorian implosion, but I wouldn't put it past him to struggle and do something boorish enough to change the match in our favor. Heck, there have been five red cards in our last three clashes, not that I suspect Nasri of going quite that far.

If, after all, we defend deep and in numbers, as I called for in this post, the pressure on Nasri among others will mount. If Silva is in fact too injured or is simply rested, eyes will turn naturally to Nasri both for the role he'll be expected to play and the circumstances in which he's playing it. If he cannot unlock us, questions will come up, both in his mind and those of his teammates, as to his ability to rise to the occasion. With the broad assumption that Man City will steamroll us, anything that undermines or contradicts those assumptions will need someone to take the blame. In Nasri, we may just have the perfect foil.

Amid the gloom and doom, you probably know to expect a certain optimism from me. Am I alone in thinking that we could do better for ourselves than another abomination? Will Nasri have a meltdown, or at least a difficult day? Your comments, as always, below the fold...