French midfielder stands out for his new club in a dominant team performance to make Luka Modric envious
So, Samir Nasri, do you think you might have done the right thing in joining Manchester City? As debuts went, this was about as perfect as it could have got, right down to the detail of this dramatic statement of intent coming in north London, where the Frenchman is now disliked on both sides of the divide.
City's latest signing from crisis‑torn Arsenal considered the point as he presented the man-of-the-match champagne to the unstoppable Edin Dzeko, with whom he had linked to devastating effect. Yet his thoughts were fixed on exciting times ahead.
"Boring, boring City" sang the travelling hordes, their tongues pressed firmly in their cheeks. It is now 12 goals in three Premier League matches and nine points from nine. "I am convinced we can win things," Nasri said. Nobody could disagree.
The principal sub-plot of what had been billed as a finely balanced early‑season encounter but ended up bringing angst and recrimination to Tottenham Hotspur was the tale of two unsettled midfielders. While Nasri managed to force through his protracted £24m transfer and his football consequently basked in a sense of liberation, Luka Modric has so far had no such luck.
The Croat remains desperate to join Chelsea but his ambitions have cast dark clouds over Tottenham's summer. Harry Redknapp revealed that Modric, who had missed the club's opening matches of the season because "his head hasn't been right", came in to see him two hours before kick-off to tell him he did not want to play.
The manager told him that he had to start, yet there was no mistaking his frustrations. Nor those of Modric who, after a bright opening, faded badly, rather like his team. The crowd had bellowed their encouragement to him – they are practically begging him to stay – and when he was substituted they booed the decision. Modric, though, somewhat sheepishly, kept his head down as he walked to the bench.
"Luka's head's not right again today," Redknapp said. "He came to see me, at probably 11.30am, and he told me that he didn't feel his head was right. I told him he needed to play. His head's been turned. It's probably been turned again last night. We all know what goes on in the game.
"Something happened last night, I don't know what. He was OK to play yesterday morning. While he still sees a chink of light to go to Chelsea, he's probably doing what he's been told is the best idea to get to Chelsea. It's part of football, whether it's agents talking to him. He's getting advised maybe not to play today. We've seen it before."
Chelsea were reported to have made a £40m bid on Saturday night, their third offer of the summer, but Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman, is adamant that Modric will stay. Redknapp is confident of completing the signing of Scott Parker from West Ham United while he has a serious interest in Manchester City's Craig Bellamy, Real Madrid's Lassana Diarra and Bolton Wanderers' Gary Cahill. Wilson Palacios has undergone a medical at Stoke City ahead of his proposed transfer there, while Peter Crouch has also been heavily linked to the Potteries club.
"We've had a terrible pre-season," Redknapp said. "There's been a feeling round the place ... for me, it's not been right. People going, people wanting to go ... Crouchie to Stoke in the papers every day and we have to play him. No one's ever told me that he's going to Stoke. It's all been a bit unsettling. The place needs a lift and I've told that to the chairman."
The contrast to what Nasri can now enjoy at City is startling. He had trainedonly three times with his new team‑mates after his arrival last week but, surrounded by high quality and unstinting endeavour, he found it straightforward to settle.
Nasri was involved in the creation of 11 chances in total but it was his crosses for the first two goals that made the most telling mark. He drifted dangerously from his starting position on the left, his passing was intelligent and his touch and flicks were sometimes breathtaking.
Unsurprisingly Modric appeared to look on with no little envy.