Gunners eager to tie up new Nasri deal
Arsene Wenger maintains Samir Nasri has all the qualities to follow Thierry Henry and become Footballer of the Year - so long as he continues to help drive Arsenal towards collective success.
Nasri took his tally into double figures with a superb brace in the 2-1 win over Fulham on Saturday, which sent the Gunners to the top of the Barclays Premier League.
The French international can play on either flank or in the middle, and is currently enjoying more creative freedom given the absence of injured skipper Cesc Fabregas which he will again look to exploit in tomorrow night's final Champions League Group H game against Partizan Belgrade at Emirates Stadium.
Wenger has once again helped develop a world-class talent from the promising midfielder signed from Marseille during July 2008.
However, the Arsenal manager feels Nasri's first target must be collective achievement.
"We are in the middle of the season now and I will be happy for him if he becomes Player of the Year - but what is the most important for me is that the club wins," said Wenger.
"The consequence if the club wins is that the players have a chance to win.
"I believe the priority is not to win individual awards - the most important thing is that the players focus on making their club win."
Wenger continued: "Samir Nasri is an intelligent player and understands he plays where he can help the team the most. He has become more efficient and is maturing.
"Nasri is only 23 years old and at that age you develop. When Thierry Henry came here he was 23 already and still developed a lot so that means there is a lot more to come from Nasri, Fabregas and all these players, so they are not players who are at the end of their improvement."
Arsenal have been proactive in tieing up their young talent on long-term deals, with a lucrative extension until 2015 likely to be on offer for Nasri.
"We try for a new deal," Wenger confirmed. "I believe 90% of the players their career depends on the club where they go.
"It looks to me he has made the right decision when he decided to join us, so it would be the right decision for him to stay with us."
Arsenal will have Laurent Koscielny available tomorrow night after the centre-half was given the all-clear following a nasty clash of heads with Sebastien Squillaci in the build-up to Fulham's goal on Saturday, but his replacement Johan Djourou, who is carrying a thigh problem, will not be risked.
Holland forward Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott, who both came off the bench against the Cottagers, are in contention to start a match which Arsenal must win to make sure they secure qualification through to the last 16.
The Gunners looked to be cruising after a 100% record from their opening Group H games, scoring 14 goals, only to then lose successive away games at Shakhtar Donetsk and Braga.
Partizan Belgrade have failed to live up to their 'Steamroller' nickname on a first appearance in Europe's top competition losing all five matches so far, and scoring just once, at home in the 3-1 defeat to Arsenal.
Wenger, though, is taking nothing for granted.
"We have put ourselves a little bit in a tricky position with our last two games, but it is still all in our hands and that's what we want to do - qualify," he said.
"The Arsenal fans are entitled to think that [it will be easy], but what is important is that the team focuses to have a good game and that we produce the expected result."
Arsenal have been criticised for an apparent soft centre this season, and will be without injured Thomas Vermaelen until the New Year.
Wenger said: "At the moment people focus on our defensive problems, but I believe they forget as well that we have the best away record in the Premier League, that means we are defensively quite solid.
"Certainly we want to be a bit more focused on our defensive duties at home, I think it is more down to that than any defensive deficiencies.
"That is what we want to show in our home games because nobody has a better away record than us."