Two moments of sparkling brilliance from Samir Nasri were just about enough to see off a determined Fulham team at Ashburton Grove and send Arsenal top of the table.
It was hardly a classic performance. In fact, it was another stuttering home display which saw the Gunners look completely on top one moment and nervously under the cosh the next. They started both halves brightly and purposefully but Fulham had their moments. And, in fact, for the larger part of the second half the visitors looked the most likely team to grab a second goal and the more probable winners - that is, until Nasri’s second intervention.
Samir Nasri Brilliantly Turns in His Second Goal©Getty Images
There is not much more to say about Samir Nasri’s form this term that hasn’t already been said. He is head-and-shoulders the player of the season so far. In every match he looks a live threat and the eleven goals he has notched up have made the difference between a player that has "potential" and a player that is actually delivering. His two goals yesterday were moments of wonderful individual skill and composure. He is a man completely on top of his game right now.
The capsule summary of the Gunners’ individual displays yesterday would be: Nasri and Wilshere - excellent. Song and Rosicky - awful. Everyone else - fair to middling. Yet again young Jack Wilshere anchored the midfield beautifully. The accuracy and economy of his passing is something to behold and the only criticism that could be levelled at him is that he is not bolder in committing himself forward - which is something I mentioned last week - though I suppose Wenger has him under instructions to a degree.
Both Tomas Rosicky and Alex Song looked well off the pace. Song, in particular, was a worry as he is supposed to play such an important role in midfield. However, yesterday, he looked lackadaisical. His decision-making was poor and he failed to impose himself on the match at all.
For a man who is looking to break-through in a similar way to Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky really is not getting anywhere near close to cutting it at the moment. He has had one or two reasonable games this season but yesterday’s was definitely one to forget. On his current form, it would be hard to justify keeping him in the starting eleven.
So, Arsenal sit on top of the table at the end of the weekend. It is a very satisfying place to be but I don’t think anyone will be getting carried away with things just yet. Yesterday’s win was hardly the most convincing and there are some very hard games coming up over the next couple of months in the Premier League - the first of which is, significantly, the trip to Old Trafford on Monday week. Yesterday’s result and the Gunners hitting the top of the table whilst United had to sit out their game with Blackpool due to a frozen pitch sets what is always a massive match up very nicely indeed.
Away from the Premier League, Arsenal won through to the semi-final of the Carling Cup on Tuesday night by huffing and puffing their way past Wigan Athletic. The Gunners were a long way from their fluent best but, in return, Wigan offered virtually nothing. A two-leg semi-final with Ipswich Town, who are currently languishing in the bottom third of the Championship, awaits and it seems unthinkable that Arsene Wenger’s men won’t prevail over two matches. Failure to reach the Final would be a catastrophe.
Still, we don’t have to concern ourselves with that particular encounter until the New Year. Far more pressing is this week’s Champions League clash with Partizan Belgrade. Describing it as a “must-win game” is, for once, a statement of fact rather than just hyperbole. Though Arsenal can still progress if they fail to beat Partizan as long as Braga don’t better the result in their game against Shakhtar, it really would be far cleaner for the Gunners to just win the game and get themselves through.
Partizan sit at the bottom of the table on zero points but that is no cause for complacency. I am sure they will be out to spoil Arsenal’s night as a parting shot to this year’s tournament. The Gunners must make sure they approach the game professionally and do the job that needs to be done.