It’s now been two weeks and three matches since West Ham United unveiled the signing of 31-year-old former French international Samir Nasri on a free transfer until the end of the season, following two months’ training with the club.
The first day of his short-term contract coincided with his eligibility to play professional football again after the end of an 18-month doping ban handed to him for consuming an illegal quantity of an intravenous drip during his time with Sevilla.
Many within the football world were sceptical about the signing due to Nasri’s age and how long he had been out of the game. Not to mention the last level he was playing at before his ban, the Turkish Super Lig. Hardly the standard of the Premier League.
But Manuel Pellegrini, his manager at Manchester City where the Frenchman won two titles and an English League Cup and a Community Shield in the wake of a move from Arsenal, clearly had faith in him and has shown that ever since his arrival at London Stadium. Today, we’re going to analyse, through the power of statistics-driven tactical analysis, how Nasri has fared so far in a West Ham shirt.
The undoubted highlight of Nasri’s tenure so far in East London came a matter of days ago on his Premier League debut for the Hammers, a home match against former club Arsenal at London Stadium last Saturday afternoon.
Just after half-time and with the score at 0-0, the man who spent three years at the Emirates Stadium between 2008 and 2011 before controversially leaving for the Etihad Stadium laid on the assist for young midfielder Declan Rice to score his first professional goal. The strike turned out to be the match-winner with the Irons claiming a first league victory of 2019 in front of a record home attendance.
With the help of the four wyscout.com images below, we’re going to take an in-depth look at the classy assist, which has helped the number 18 introduce himself to the Claret & Blue Army. As we can see from the first image, the move for the goal involved a Felipe Anderson cross and before the ball has even arrived in the box, Nasri is making moves to get free of his marker on the edge, showing his alertness.
The Anderson delivery only reached Shkodran Mustafi, however, the German international only headed clear directly into the path of Nasri. Prior to the ball getting to him, the attacking midfielder is ready to control it and preparing for his next action.
A fantastic touch and swivel allow the 41-cap France man to open up his body and face Rice, the intended recipient of the pass he’s about to make. Although more crucially, he’s shielding the ball from the danger of four Gunners defenders and spotting the space his teammate is in. He’s still got his famous magic touch.
Calmness personified in the chaos of the opposition penalty area at a key stage in the match, Nasri simply lays the ball off for Rice, the number 41 has the thought of pulling the trigger already in his mind. The rest, as they say, is history with the then-19-year-old picking out Bernd Leno’s top corner and giving the playmaker the first of what he hopes will be many assists back in English football. His performance in the successful London derby was pretty impressive too, but we’ll get onto analysing that a little later.
Whilst the Irons’ first home win over the North Londoners since over two years before Nasri joined them was the 31-year-old’s first league appearance in Claret & Blue, it wasn’t his first appearance of any kind for the club.
First, after featuring as an unused substitute in the home league draw with Brighton & Hove Albion two days after joining, the ex-Citizen started and played an important role in the Emirates FA Cup third-round triumph over Birmingham City that weekend. It’s his display on that day that we will be taking an in-depth look at now.
His key general statistics for the match are contained in the bottom column of the above Wyscout image, which also encompasses his figures for the Gunners victory and career average. However, it’s just the FA Cup win that we’re going to be focussing on for now.
The first stat we are drawn to, beside a column displaying his position in right central midfield and the 59 minutes he played on debut, before being replaced by Robert Snodgrass, is total actions and Nasri’s rate of success in them. Here, Nasri catches the eye with a busy 59 actions, 44 of which are successful, that’s 75 per cent.
The veteran of two UEFA European Championships with France may have not scored, assisted, registered a shot or carried an expected goals threat in his 59 minutes, but he did attempt 46 passes. An impressive 44 of these reached their intended recipient successfully, as did his one cross and long pass attempted.
Nasri would have been disappointed to have not pulled off at least one completed dribble and not win a single duel out of the seven he entered. But this did show his eagerness to get stuck in, only losing the ball on three occasions and not being involved in an aerial duel, failing to make an interception or a recovery or pick up a card.
Without setting the game alight, Nasri did well on his West Ham debut, helping his teammates secure a place in the next round of the cup. There were some highlights and some lowlights of his first showing, as we’ve seen, however, overall, it was encouraging.
The one man he needed to impress the most on debut was the man who has given him a second chance in the Premier League. And he must have done, earning a place in the next starting Xl for the Arsenal visit, ahead of unsung hero of 2018/2019 thus far, Snodgrass.
Getting a little longer on the field of play this time prior to coming off for Snodgrass for the second game in succession on 71 minutes. Above are his key general statistics from the game, also in the Wyscout image, his career average figures, which make for an intriguing comparison.
Nasri improved on his number of actions from the Birmingham game playing in the more attacking, attacking midfield role with 63, over half of which were completed with success. Although he didn’t score, the former Olympique Marseille star did produce the aforementioned pivotal assist for Rice.
Nasri’s one shot, his first in Claret & Blue, came in the first half when he dragged just wide of the Gunners goal from inside the area, helping him to 0.09 expected goals, making him a threat. As he was all afternoon. Once more, he also pulled eye-catching passing figures out of the hat, with 82% of his 32 passes completed. There was a catch, however, not being accurate with his two long passes and one cross.
A trademark of his game throughout his career, Nasri did not let the most fans ever to attend a Hammers match down, by coming out with a 100% dribble completion rate. This time, he was also able to win some duels, six out of a possible 14, but as we can see, was unsurprisingly given his height, not involved in a single aerial duel once more.
The player with 15 years of professional experience under his belt improved on his interception total from his debut by one and like last time, only lost the ball three times. He managed to add some recoveries, too, with four, all in the opposition half and once more, had not any card to his name.
Overall, to see Nasri produce fantastic figures against a Championship opponent in the cup is one thing, but to see him do it in the Premier League at the age of 31 is another. This is without mentioning the immense pressure he was under facing a former club with whom he doesn’t share the best of relationships.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has revealed that, based on his performance in the two matches he’s featured in under Pellegrini in East London thus far, Nasri has fared very well in his start to life in a West Ham shirt.
It’s a very good sign for anyone associated with the club that the No18 has been able to spend such a long time away from the game and effortlessly drift back into it, taking back to English football like a duck to water. The gamble West Ham have taken on Nasri already looks like it will pay off and already is, they will just be hoping that it continues as the final few months of the season come into view.
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