Mind over matter for ice-cool Nasri
Published 16/12/2010 | 05:00
Samir Nasri believes a more relaxed attitude has helped him become ruthless in front of goal as Arsenal look to keep themselves in the Premier League title race.
France midfielder Nasri (23) has scored 12 goals this season but was unable to help the Gunners avoid a defeat at Old Trafford on Monday night, which saw Manchester United overtake them at the top of the table.
However, with the Red Devils now not in action again until Sunday when they travel to title rivals Chelsea and with third-placed Manchester City -- level on points with Arsenal -- hosting Everton on Monday evening, victory over Stoke at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday would send Arsene Wenger's men back to the summit.
Nasri, signed from Marseille in the summer of 2008, accepts sometimes the Gunners need to ditch "the bullfighter's outfit" and sacrifice their "flamboyant style" in order to get results. He also believes a positive mental approach has been key to his own personal improvement this season.
"I am playing higher up the wing now and the boss asks me to go in behind defenders because I have the ability to do it," he said. "Sometimes it is just something in your head, you think you can do it, you manage it once or twice and then you say, 'yes, it is possible.' Now I go behind defenders more because I know I am able to.
"When I am in front of a goalkeeper, I am more relaxed now. Before I felt too much pressure to score, I wanted it too much maybe. Now I don't worry as much, I am more at ease with the game and I am not looking for goals, I am looking to work for the team.
"If you feel like that, the opportunities come along naturally. I think more with my head -- things are 90pc in your head and everything else comes after that. If you can see things earlier, you can anticipate the pass, the shot, everything like that."
Nasri was not part of Les Bleus' ill-fated squad out in South Africa and has been named 2010 French player of the year by 'France Football' magazine.
The midfielder believes he is more mature for the whole experience. "Remember that before joining Arsenal, I was at Marseille where it was easy for me because I was with my family, I was born there and had played for them since I was nine," he said. "I came here on my own and you grow up more quickly that way. It made a difference, because now I have become a man."
Captain Cesc Fabregas, fit again following a hamstring problem, striker Robin van Persie and England forward Theo Walcott all came off the substitutes' bench at Old Trafford and will be pressing to start against the Potters.
Combative midfielder Abou Diaby could return to the squad after resuming training this week following an ankle problem which has kept him sidelined since October.
Young Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is another keen to get more match action, having proved an able deputy against United for Lukasz Fabianski, who was carrying a hip problem.
"I really do (want more games now). I wanted it before, but now I know how it feels to play in the Premier League so I really want to get more of it and come out with a clean sheet next time, and the three points," Szczesny said.
"We know we are a good side, our confidence is not any lower than it was before the game. We are good enough to recover and if we want to aim for the title, we have to get all three points (against Stoke)."
Arsenal, meanwhile, have been linked with a £10m January move for Freiburg's 25-year-old Senegalese forward Papiss Demba Cisse, currently the top scorer in the Bundesliga.