Nasri too good to risk against Barca

by Will ODoherty

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Arsenal host Barcelona in the Champions League this Wednesday, hopeful their improvement as a team can make up for a chastening experience in the same competition last year.

Kept in the tie by Manuel Almunia and a rousing first-leg comeback, Arsenal were embarrassed by their esteemed opponents at the Nou Camp, losing 6-3 on aggregate, but will go into the game believing that, despite the improvements Barca have made, they are a closer match this time round.

Even in the absence of defensive linchpin Thomas Vermaelen, there is little denying that 2011’s is a better side than the one that was eventually humiliated by Leo Messi and company.

The resurgence of Bacary Sagna, the maturation of Theo Walcott and Johan Djourou, the emergence of Jack Wilshere and the freshness of Robin van Persie have all contributed to the improvement but Samir Nasri stands out as the primary symbol of Arsenal’s progress.

He has been Arsenal’s player of the season, and a strong bet for the Premier League player of the season alongside Nani, Rafa van der Vaart, Carlos Tevez and Nemanja Vidic.

He has found consistency and a killer instinct to add to his trickery and, in doing so, has become the kind of player that can turn a game almost individually.

He is now a vital cog in the Arsenal machine.

Naturally, Arsene Wenger hopes his new superstar can shake off his hamstring injury but he must not risk him unless he is 100% fit, which seems very unlikely at this point.

Arsenal have the players to overcome the Catalan giants –maybe the best side ever assembled – without Nasri, yet they also need to realise where their greatest chances of success lie.

The Frenchman could come through the game unscathed and be at the heart of a rousing home victory, but, were his injury to be exacerbated, it would be a severe blow to the club’s trio of domestic campaigns, all of which they are more likely to win than the biggest one of all.

Look no further than this fixture last year for your omens from history.

Cesc Fabregas and William Gallas were thrown into the game despite being unfit. Gallas promptly came off with a recurrence of a calf injury while a battered captain’s fitness finally gave in when he broke his leg striking the equalising penalty, both missed the rest of the season.

The loss of two of their key players, along with that of Vermaelen not long afterwards, saw Arsenal’s promising season collapse, having to contend without van Persie – a serial victim of being rushed back – for five months did not help.

Arsenal are still very much in this title race. They must hope for a favour from Liverpool and Chelsea (twice) and then beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s men at home.

Nasri has already been central to one defeat of United and, if he can continue to inspire the club as he has all season on his return, his omission on Wednesday will have been worth it, however Arsenal fare in his absence.

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  • Erick Onyuka

    Oh! Absolutely. Lets not risk Nasri on Wednesday. Arshavin can fill in the gap. If we get a 2-0 win , then next leg hopefully all will be fit and Sagna would be back, then we can get a result at Camp Nou.

  • Alan

    As you say Nasri should be watching this one from the stands.

    With Diaby suspended from domestic games do you think Wenger will give him a game against Barcelona, and if so instead of who?

    It would have to be instead of Song or Wilshere I imagine.
    Either way we would be weaker as Diaby gives the ball away more than the other two.

    On the other hand Wenger could push Wilshere into the Arshavin role but that would be a bit of a shock.

  • Luke McGee

    Yeah, good shout. Bench at best, if AA23 starts ruining our lives by not helping GC out enough down the left that consider bringing him on, but only if we look to be getting murdered

  • Kerron

    Even though Nasri’s return will b a huge boost, there is always the return leg in 3 weeks and what better way to parade his skills than @ the Nou Camp. Arshavin is more than capable to deputise in Nasri’s absence.

  • dexylongshot

    I’d keep Nasri on the bench tonight and hope to get a win or at least a draw. I think everyone is really under-estimating Arsenal for tonight. They will be the best team Barca have faced all season and i can see fireworks. Here’s a thought, i’ve heard a rumour that Theo will be used as a lone striker forcing the Barca defence to think twice before doing their usual and plot on the half way line watching the dreamtime up front pass the opposition into submission with Van Persie on the right/free role. That might shake it up a bit!

  • Dexylongshot

    Well done arsenal. What a week for team London!

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