Nasri and Diaby: the sum is greater than the parts

This game comes down to Nasri and Diaby playing their way. Unlike the first match, this one looks to be more physical, less pretty and more like an EPL match. Don’t misunderstand me, this won’t be a Bolton v. Stock City matchup -the players won’t be out to put on the pain. But it will be faster paced, less passing, more dibbling and harder tackling.

After the last match there was a lot of blah blah blah about how Arsenal was outclassed. True, for the first 20 minutes they were, but so what? Barca didn’t score, we didn’t give up and gave ourselves a chance. At this stage of the tournament, against any of the competition, that’s what you need. Besides, if we’d been chelsea or manu, the story would have been a testament to English never say die attitude.

The big change will be the Nasri-Diaby midfield. This means more swinging from side to side and less of the passing creativity up the middle by Fab. But it also means more defense. Nasri is faster and more tenacious of a defender than Fab.

That being said, people are convinced that without Fab, we have little chance. But people focus too much on individual payers and not enough on how the players work together as a team. It’s easy to play with Fab, he’s fantastic. But that doesn’t mean players play their best with Fab. Nasri is the prime example of this problem. This young player has lost an entire year playing out of his position for the good of the team, but when called upon he has “deputized” with aplomb.

Nasri caused havoc for Barca last game, go back and watch his play. They didn’t have a solution to him then and they have less of one now, with Pique and Puyol out. With more weight on his shoulders this game I fully expect him to rise to the occasion, there’s no reason not to think he won’t -he’s that good.

The key will be how he plays with Diaby. If these two are able to coordinate their play the sum will be greater than the parts. Diaby complements Nasri well. Although neither is the passer that Fab is, playing off each other they make a potent tandem. They play a 1-2 that even Fab might be envious of.

Against barca, this relationship will dictate the game. If Diaby and Nasri can recreate their orchestra on the pitch, they’ll change the complexion of the game in a way good for us and bad for barca.

-the student

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