West Ham United fans may not have to wait until the January transfer window for Manuel Pellegrini to make the 10th first-team signing of his short reign at the club thus far, as a free agent is being heavily linked to a move to London Stadium.
Today, as the rumours continue to swirl, we are going to be carrying out a statistics-driven tactical analysis analysing whether the Hammers should do everything in their power to bring this veteran star back to the Premier League and into Claret & Blue for the first time. Join us.
The rumour linking the player in question with his first-ever move to East London, the possibility of which we are going to be looking at in-depth today, is one connecting free agent and former Arsenal and Manchester City attacker Samir Nasri, to the club.
The 31-year-old ex-France international can play in a number of roles, including on the left wing and in central attacking midfield, where the Irons are in desperate need of cover in the central area, following torrid injury luck this campaign.
As the veteran is nearing the end of a doping ban handed to him in February after he left Turkish club Antalyaspor, he will be eligible to play professionally again at the beginning of January.
Reports suggest that Nasri has already undergone his medical at the club Rush Green training ground and Pellegrini, his manager at the Etihad Stadium, is very keen to sign him up. Outlets such as The London Evening Standard have also reported that should he sign, the two-time Premier League winner, and one-time League Cup and FA Community Shield winner will be given a contract worth around £80,000 per week.
Now that we’ve analysed the rumour, next, we are going to be looking at his Player Profile, provided to us, like all the statistics and infographics in this analysis, by our good friends over at wyscout.com.
As you can see, on the left of the image is some brief player information and on the right, a heatmap and position map from his most recent spell in Turkey, we’ll start with the left. Nasri’s height has always made him one of the more agile players in world football, along with his weight and lack of physicality, but these have acted as strengths in the forward positions he’s always featured in.
The heatmap tells us that the last role the 41-cap Frenchman was primarily used in was that left-wing role and he would patrol up and down the left side of the pitch, getting up to attack and back down again to track back. As you can see from both maps, he would also pop up in different positions, across the attack and even back in left midfield, the former would suit the front three used by West Ham this season.
For the main part of this tactical analysis, we will analyse Nasri’s key attacking stats from his latest spell with a club, his time in the Super Lig, which ended earlier this year with his last appearance coming just over 12 months ago. He has been without a club since, amid the ban for a doping violation a year earlier.
While we can see these attacking stats for all eight of his matches in Turkey, individually, it’s just the averages column at the very top that we will be focussing on, featuring the figures per 90 minutes for the whole of what was largely expected to be the last stint of his coveted career in Europe.
The first stat we’re drawn to, beside a mini heatmap of his time in the Turkish top-flight, slightly more detailed, is his goals and how many of them he scored per 90 minutes on average.
Here, Nasri registered an impressive 0.23 goals per full game thanks to his two in the red and white of Antalyaspor, one of them coming on his debut against Malatyaspor and the other in his third match, also at home, against 1299 Osmanlispor.
One assist in the eight outings account for his rate of 0.12 assists, while from the left wing position, he managed an impressive 1.51 shots, over 30 per cent of which were on target.
For someone who is far from an out-and-out attacker, an expected goals rating of 0.22 showed his threat and over 2.5 shot assists per 90 minutes displays the creative threat that he also carries, both of which would be useful for the East Londoners.
Operating in mostly wide positions, his poor crossing stats speak for themselves and that’s something he will want to improve on, should he get another chance after nine months away from the game. Nasri’s figures for dribbling do balance things out, though, as he totted up an average of 3.6 dribbles, completing over 90%.
Despite not being the strongest, the Frenchman wasn’t one to shy away from attacking duels in his last spell, embroiling himself in over ten and coming out on top exactly 50% of the time. 1.51 touches in the opposition box is not the most menacing, but does tell us he stuck well to his wide position.
His average of being found offside on no occasions would match the Irons’ lack of league offsides this campaign as they sit 16th in that table with just 22, while over two progressive runs and nearly a foul a game drawn are two respectable closing stats for the journeyman of 31.
Overall, these stats have displayed that, in spite of now being into his 30s, Nasri still has something to offer, producing some eye-catching figures over his albeit short spell in the Turkish first division. It is also worth remembering that the veteran of two major International tournaments has over 200 appearances and close to 40 goals in the English Top-Flight to back him up, too, experience.
The Stumbling Block
Whilst in the early part of the week ahead of Nasri’s medical in East London, everything looked to be running smoothly with this deal and an announcement appeared to be on the horizon, the move has now reportedly hit a stumbling block.
This has come about post-medical and is an issue with the 2005 UEFA Intertoto Cup champion’s fitness, having not played for the best part of a year. The results of the medical were not positive and in order to be signed by Pellegrini, according to rumours, the Marseille Academy product must now prove that he can get into shape.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that, in spite of being 31 and a free agent of nearly a year, Nasri’s last spell in football and wider jewel-encrusted career, statistically, suggests that he would still be able to pull his weight at West Ham.
However, it will be a matter of whether he can get up to the fitness required for the most competitive league in the world and whether the club deem he is deserving of such a high wage, with issues such as Declan Rice’s contract still yet to be sorted. As he will be signed, in the main, to only provide cover for the likes of Felipe Anderson and Manuel Lanzini when he returns and brings such a wealth of experience and success to Pellegrini’s ranks, the Hammers should follow through and complete the Nasri deal, but it will still be a major risk.