There were mixed reactions to the initial news that West Ham United were signing Samir Nasri. Having been banned for doping he began training with the Hammers towards the end of 2018 to earn a contract, with it being announced he had successfully done so at the very beginning of January. Many felt that he wouldn’t be up to the standard after his extended period out of the game. However, Manuel Pellegrini clearly saw enough in him during those training sessions to offer him a contract. His early performances have begun to get the supporters on side as well.
He was on left on the bench against Brighton & Hove Albion –the first game after he was signed- before making his debut in the FA Cup Third Round match against Birmingham City. He played 58 minutes in the 2-0 win, showing the technical ability that had led to him being held in such high esteem during his prime years. There were some touches of true class from the Frenchman during the game, with a pinpoint pass to Marko Arnautovic on the edge of the box after the ball had popped up being a prime example.
Nasri also worked hard throughout his time on the pitch, though it seemed he tired after half time before being brought off. However, even after the training he’s undertaken it would have been a big ask to expect the Frenchman to last the entirety of the game.His creative contributions certainly helped In the time he did play, as the Hammers booked their place in the next round.
His performance impressed the manager enough to earn him a spot in the starting line up for the next game. This meant his first game back in the Premier League would be against Arsenal. It was the perfect setting for his comeback: playing against the club who have loathed him so heavily ever since he left them to join Manchester City.
The Arsenal supporters may have been charged up in the stands, but Nasri remained composed on the pitch. A moment which epitomises this is when he had the ball near the edge of the box and was being put under pressure by the Arsenal defence. Rather than panic and try to get a snap shot off, he patiently waited for Felipe Anderson to arrive before laying it off to the Brazilian for a first time shot. The effort may not have gone in, but that alongside other forms of link up play showed that he will be a creative and threatening attacking presence in West Ham’s side.
His most important contribution came in the 48th minute, when Granit Xhaka’s weak defensive header fell to his feet in the box. He took one touch out of his feet, saw Declan Rice and played the ball to the 19-year-old, setting the youngster up for his first ever senior goal. What made the moment even sweeter is that this was the only goal of the game and handed the Hammers the win.
The Frenchman and his team mates will now be looking to build on these victories. West Ham’s next match will be against AFC Bournemouth, with a win potentially taking them up to seventh.
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