Manchester City finished off their trophy-less 2014/15 season with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Southampton at the Etihad Stadium last Sunday.
Sergio Aguero won the Premier League Golden Boot, his first since moving from Atletico Madrid in 2011, for scoring 26 goals in a Barclays Premier League campaign that saw Man. City finish in second place.
Joe Hart bagged the Golden Glove award, his 3rd in the last four seasons, for keeping more cleansheets (14) than any other goalkeeper in the English top-flight.
Those two individual awards, albeit not significant in the grand scheme of things, are a reminder of the kind of players City have at their disposal and that there have been a few positives to come out of a season which simply didn’t go to plan for the Sky Blues.
City crashed out of both the Capital One and FA Cup competitions at a very early stage, losing to Newcastle United and Middlesbrough, respectively, at their Etihad fortress. They couldn’t breach the ‘Barcelona barrier’ either, losing 1-3 on aggregate in the UEFA Champions League R-16 for the second season in succession.
Throughout the season that has just finished, there were talks of the City squad requiring a major surgery, replacing the older legs – Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko, Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy, to name a few – with young, energetic and world class players of the calibre of Paul Pogba, Kevin de Bruyne, Roberto Firmino, Layvin Kurzawa and of late, Raheem Sterling.
Samir Nasri, albeit not in the age categories of the Toures, Kolarovs and Dzekos and who only signed a 5-year contract at the beginning of last season, is another City player alleged to be on his way out of the Etihad.
It was also reported that he had an altercation with Manuel Pellegrini, who dropped him from City’s starting XI after a string of poor performances during the late February-early March period, with Nasri making only four substitute appearances thereafter.
In this article, let us get an idea of what the Frenchman did in an injury-hit season, and whether he could get the axe from City’s squad for next season.
Nasri only made 32 appearances across all competitions for the Cityzens in the 14/15 season, suffering injuries – groin and calf – on three different occasions, that affected him from replicating the wonderful form he showed in Pellegrini’s first season in-charge of the club.
Calling it a bad season for Nasri, however, doesn’t make sense if you go by the stats that clearly demonstrate the Frenchman’s contribution to City whenever he played.
As an attacking-midfielder or inside forward, the 27-year old, in the season that has just finished, completed 90% of his attempted passes, which was the most by any City attacker, in 24 Premier League appearances.
Not only did he pass for passing sake, but he also created an average of close to 2.2 chances (52 overall) per game, which was bettered only by David Silva (2.9) and Jesus Navas (2.3) – with the duo playing 8 and 11 more games, respectively, than the former Arsenal player.
More impressively, Nasri completed 27 of his 31 attempted take-ons, proving his efficiency in keeping possession and going past defenders.
He also chipped in with a couple of goals and had a shot accuracy of 63%, which, again, was bettered only by Jose Angel Pozo, who made just three league appearances.
In the Champions League, Nasri wasn’t as effective as he was in the league, despite making 6 appearances in the competition. He completed 89% of his passes, but mustered a mere 1.2 chances per game, while also completing just 3 take-ons over six appearances.
His highlight of the season, however, came in this competition, where he scored a goal and assisted the other for Pablo Zabaleta, in City’s 2-0 win over AS Roma last December.
Looking beyond Nasri’s stats, City need to determine the reason for holding onto their No.8. In Silva, City have a better player than Nasri and in the same mould as the Frenchman; the Spaniard is also adept at creating goal scoring chances (93, in the league alone), completing take-ons (74% success rate, in the league alone) and scoring (12, in the league alone) goals, too.
Therefore, Nasri, without a smidgen of doubt, doesn’t bring something different to Pellegrini’s side that also has Navas and James Milner, who play as wingers and defensively contribute a lot more than what the Frenchman usually does.
He is also devoid of pace and, at the Champions League level, he will struggle because of that, as we saw what Neymar did to him when City played the Catalans at the Camp Nou.
If the 2013/14 English champions do secure the services of de Bruyne, Firmino and Sterling, or even one amongst the trio, they ought to make a decision on Nasri’s role in the squad.
Because unless Pellegrini decides to adopt the 4-3-3 system, which could see the Marseille-born midfielder play in one of the two advanced midfield positions, it is not going to be possible for him to feature regularly in the starting XI.
He, for me, won’t be satisfied with a bit-part role and that could cause serious problems with offloading him, as he is currently on a huge £120,000 per week salary at the Etihad.
Nasri is a very good player, who can make things happen for City when they are playing against parked buses: he can drive into the box, play neat one-twos and thereby, add potency to City’s attacks.
However, his work-rate is definitely on the lower side and also lacks pace, which is a significant downside for a player who can play only as a winger at City.
As we all know, it is going to be an intriguing summer at City, and what they do with Nasri will further add to the excitement.