13 May 2014

No, Nasri's not going to Brazil. He's Arsène's Anakin.

Tsk, tsk. So it seems that, despite a tolerably good season for Man City, Samir Nasri has been left out of the squad named by Didier Deschamps. More's the pity. If you enjoy wallowing in a bit of tawdriness, go check out his girlfriend's twitter feed. Highly amusing. However, I'm not here to wag my finger at Nasri or dwell at any length on why he should have stayed at Arsenal and how much better it could have been for us and how a midfield of Nasri, Ozil, Fabregas, and Ramsey would boss the Prem. He showed his colors and that's that. However, there is a cautionary tale at play there, one that offers just a bit of spiteful revenge but also some food for thought for other players on our radar—and in the French squad as well.

As far back as February, I suggested that Nasri, for as well as he might fare for City, might fall short of expectations for France. It's now come to pass and is the second World Cup that Nasri will miss out on. As promised, though, we're not going to spend any more time on Nasri and what might have been. Instead, his experience offers a suggestion to future Gunners about the perils of leaving Arsenal too soon. As a manager renowned for molding young players into superstars, Arsène looked to be working that magic on a young Samir Nasri. However, Nasri, perhaps believing that he had developed as much as necessary, or feeling that his powers had exceeded his tutor’s abilities to enhance, left for greener pastures. For a time, it seems to have paid off as he’s won trophies and contributed to that success—at least to some degree.

However, like a fair-few other former Gunners, he’s struggled to fully make his mark at other clubs. For as fine a player as he is now, it must be hard to get left out of the French squad without wondering what it means for his growth as a player. What kind of player might he have grown into had he stayed at Arsenal? It's possible, maybe even probable, that he would have continued to grow, to expand, to refine his already-impressive array of footballing skills. He's done well enough for himself, don't get me wrong, but not well enough to convince Deschamps that he's necessary to France's hopes in Brazil. He's been pipped by a few Arsenal-targets (aren't they all?), such as Morgan Schneiderlin, Clément Grenier, and Blaise Matiudi. For as fortunate as each of them must feel, some small part of each man must also be pondering the twists and turns a career can take, and what role Nasri's decisions have played in creating the opportunity that has now fallen to them. To be sure, each man has had to convince Deschamps of his own merits, but the opening had to be created as well. 

Especially for younger players like Grenier and Schneiderlin, not to omit others like Pogba or Griezmann, they might do well to consider how a trial at London Colney and the Emirates might polish them up a bit. After all, compatriots like Koscielny, Sagna, and Giroud will go to Brazil, and the only French Gunners who didn't get selected are Diaby, just back from injury, and Sanogo, still finding his way. How much of the improvements that Kos and Sagna have experience are attributable to Arsène's tutelage? Giroud, for all of his flaws, now competes directly for playing time with Karim Benzema (but the evidence of Arsène's influence is harder to acknowledge here, given Giroud's more-advanced age and shorter exposure to Arsène's methods).

Those man can now travel to Brazil, thanks in some small part to what they've learned and how they've developed through their time at Arsenal. Along the way, they can talk up those lessons and experiences during the long plane trip and into the wee hours of the night with Grenier, Schneiderlin, and others. Part of those conversations might turn, sotto voce, to the sad tale of the Midfielder Who Didn't Make It.
submit to reddit