As if the snow, ice and Glüh­wein weren’t clues enough that Christmas is on the way, a goal on Saturday had Sky Sports’ com­men­tator Andy Gray reaching for the sea­sonal meta­phors: »The touch of an angel!« cried the former striker, as Samir Nasri scored the winner in Arsenal’s 2 – 1 bes­ting of Fulham. Not unknown for his hyper­bole, Gray could be excused on this occa­sion: Nasri’s goal was divine. In case, you missed it – here it is in full:


The scam­pe­ring Frenchman arrived at the Emi­rates in 2008 from Mar­seilles, the latest of his genera­tion to be bur­dened with the label the next Zidane’. His deve­lop­ment was incre­mental, and he did not imme­dia­tely shine as brightly or con­sistently as expected. This season though, he has blossomed and (along with the Gareth Bale at Spurs) has lit up the London post­code of N17 with some exu­berant foot­work. Having scored both goals on Saturday, his tally in the league this season now stands at eight and his form has helped mask the hole in Arsenal’s ranks left by the alter­na­tively out-of-sorts or injured Cesc Fabregas.

All eyes turned to Yoann Gour­cuff

The French public’s desire for an excep­tional player to step for­ward like Zidane and lead the national team out of its funk in the Domenech era was no sur­prise – the supre­mely incom­pe­tent manager was never going to do it him­self. But it is almost as if, having been excluded from Ray­mond Domenech’s ill-fated France World Cup squad, Nasri has shrugged off any bother­some notion that he alone should revive Les Bleus. In Nasri’s absence, all eyes in South Africa turned ins­tead to Yoann Gour­cuff, who was suf­fo­cated by the pres­sure and poi­sonous divi­sions in the French dres­sing room and has simply never reco­vered.

Nasri on the other hand emerged from his summer holi­days unda­maged by the French farce, and despite an early season knee injury, quickly dis­co­vered perhaps the richest vein of form of his career. Playing on the right of the attacking three in Arsene Wenger’s 4−2−3−1, the 23-year-old has been a con­stant source of for­ward impetus, demons­tra­ting beau­tiful balance on the ball, to slalom into oppon­ents’ penalty areas and wreak havoc with shots from both feet. His first goal on Saturday was, after two heart-stop­ping feints, dispatched with his weaker left peg.

Stun­ningly and swiftly as Samir Nasri

His dazz­ling dis­plays though will only mask Arsenal’s defi­ci­en­cies at the back for so long. No-one likes to see players injured, but the way Lau­rent Koscielny and Sébas­tien Squil­laci clashed heads in the build up to Fulham’s goal on Saturday was indi­ca­tive of the pair’s pro­pen­sity to blunder. With Wenger’s major weak­ness still his ina­bi­lity to iden­tify com­man­ding goal-kee­pers in the transfer market (he inherited David Seaman remember), Arsenal, have a soft, squidgy centre like the mar­zipan at the heart of a Stol­len­kon­fekt. The Pre­mier League’s most vor­a­cious stri­kers will gorge on it till sick.

None­theless, due to the can­cel­la­tion of Man­chester United’s match at Black­pool, Arsenal are top of the table for a week, having won the most games and scored the second-most goals after Chelsea, whose glut at the start of the season is loo­king increa­singly decep­tive. Arsenal’s next fix­ture could be defi­ning – a trip to Old Traf­ford on Monday. A win there for the Gun­ners, who have won more games on the road than any other side this season, would see them loo­king a little like Herbst­meister – ready to take on the punis­hing Christmas sche­dule with a slight gap over United and Chelsea. Sea­sons can turn on what hap­pens in frantic December though – as stun­ningly and swiftly as »Le Petit Prince« Samir Nasri.

Die Titus-Fuss­bal­ling-Eng-zyklo­pädie
An dieser Stelle erklärt Titus Chalk die eng­li­sche Fuß­ball-Kultur auf Deutsch

Folge 15: Eng­land 2018
Der Traum, der letzte Woche einen Alb­traum geworden ist. Eng­land hat wirk­lich gehofft, dass mit einem paar Ein­la­dungen für die Hoch­zeit Prinz Wil­liams, Hand­schläge von Golden Balls, und ja zwar Sta­dien, Anhänger, Fuss­ball-kultur und so weiter, könnten wir end­lich die WM schaffen. Aber ach… wir haben ver­gessen wie eigent­lich funk­tio­niert FIFA. In solche Situa­tionen, können wir immer dankbar sein, dass wir Harry Red­knapp haben, alles zu erklären. »Es ist wie X‑Factor«, hat er gesagt. »Du bist ent­weder gut oder nicht gut. Du kannst nicht nachher die Richter hinter den Kulissen sagen: ›Ihr sollt eigent­lich für mich wählen. Ich bin eine sexy Schnitte und werde für euch meine Kla­motten abnehmen.‹« Danke sehr Harry. Du bist der nächste Eng­land Trainer.