Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Arsenal Must Keep Nasri, Or Risk Mass Exodus

As sad as Arsenal's 2010/11 season was, it looks as though their summer could be about to get that much worse. After a year of near misses and failure to capitalize on others mediocrity, Arsenal finished 2010/11 trophyless; something which probably went down very badly with some of the Gunners' higher profile players.

As always, Cesc Fabregas has been linked with the exit door; both boyhood club Barcelona and mega spenders Real Madrid are in hot pursuit of the Spaniard, while suitors in Italy and England have also expressed an interest in acquiring Arsenal's captain. Following the performances of Jack Wilshere over the course of 10/11, many an Arsenal supporter have given their blessing to Cesc to call it a day and move on to pastures new. However, those adopting such an attitude should think twice before giving up on their hero, leaving a young player alone to command central midfield is a recipe for disaster.

While Cesc's departure is perhaps an inevitable occurrence, the potential sale of Samir Nasri is certainly not. The Frenchman has grown into his position as an all round attacker at Arsenal, scoring an impressive number of goals, with some of them breathtakingly brilliant. Arguably, Nasri was the only established name in the first team to have furthered himself over the course of the season, some of his performances were simply sublime.

But now, weeks after the conclusion of Arsenal's season, Nasri's future is wreathed in doubt, the former Marseille man seems to be stalling on the signing of a new contract and Manchester United are lurking as ever. No doubt about it, Nasri would be an excellent signing for the Mancunians, they miss a strong attacking presence in midfield, and with only a year remaining on his contract, Arsenal would be forced to sell on the cheap. Even more interestingly, Nasri has refused to rule out a move to the champions, the Frenchman was quoted as saying "I don't know if I will sign a new contract" and "We should see if the interest from Manchester United is real." Now, only in the riotous world of football could that be translated as a "come and get me plea," but certainly, it offers no encouragement to Arsenal fans hoping for Nasri to remain at the club.

The direct results of Nasri's potential departure would be severe, Wenger would have a cavernous attacking hole to fill, and likely insufficient funds to satisfactorily plug it. More pertinently though, could be the effect on the psyche of the rest of the Arsenal squad. If both Nasri and Fabregas were to leave, some of Arsenal's stars would surely start to reconsider their future at the club, after all, nobody wants to play for an unsuccessful team minus two of their key players.

Men like Robin Van Persie, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna could all further themselves elsewhere, and all have been linked to money spinning moves abroad in the past. Both Clichy and Sagna are rumored to be targets of the big two in Spain; Madrid and Barca are notoriously weak in the full back positions. Van Persie has in the past been said to have been interested in the possibility of a move to AC Milan; a transfer which would allow the Dutchman to follow in the footsteps of fellow countryman like Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten.

Wherever their destination, losing those three players on top of selling Nasri and Fabregas would decimate an Arsenal squad already lacking in depth. If that purging of stars were to occur, then I'm certain the Gunners would struggle to qualify for next year's Champions League; too many teams are on the rise for Arsenal to weaken themselves to that extreme.

The coming weeks could be chastening ones for Wenger and new owner Stan Kroenke, Arsenal have reached a crossroads of sorts, and if they fail to take the right direction, they are likely to find a road leading well away from top tier European competition.

Read David Yaffe-Bellany's work @ EPL Talk and Red Flag Flying High

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