By Richard Clarke
If Samir Nasri becomes the new Robert Pires then nobody at Arsenal will complain.
Before he moved to North London in the summer the 21-year-old French winger was most often compared to Zinedine Zidane. But after his goal-scoring debut on Saturday, Arsène Wenger said he played like Pires and been signed in the same circumstances as Marc Overmars.
Given that those left wingers won three League titles and three FA Cups during their Arsenal career, they would seem worthy examples to follow.
“Samir looks intelligent and capable of having good acceleration,” said Wenger. “He sees a good vision of the game and that left flank suits him quite well.
“Maybe there is a bit of Robert Pires in him because he looks to be able to change direction very easily and a little bit the same style of run. He is a bit smaller, but there’s a bit of Pires in there.”
With that abundant quality, it was slightly surprising there was so little competition when Arsenal bought him from Marseille in July.
“He had a bad season last year because he had meningitis,” explained Wenger. “He was in hospital for two weeks.
“He didn’t recover properly for three months and then they rushed him back to play. Of course he was not at the expected level. But the year before everybody wanted him.
“Sometimes you have to be brave enough when everybody says he is not good.”
The situation was the same when Wenger bought Overmars from Ajax in 1997. The Dutch winger had suffered a serious knee injury the previous summer and, given his game was based on pace, Wenger took a real gamble in signing him. He was repaid 10-fold as Overmars helped fire Arsenal to their first ‘double’ in 1998.
“Exactly, [it is like Overmars],” said the manager. “Samir did not have the best of seasons last year. But I saw him start his first game and he gave me an impression that you keep with you. When you see things, you have to go with your beliefs.”Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 18 Aug 2008