How the Carling Cup helped change Samir Nasri’s season around

French midfielder is Arsenal’s inspiration, and has a night at White Hart Lane to thank for it

IF ANYBODY questions the wisdom of Arsene Wenger playing his senior players in Carling Cup games this season, they might just want to think about the change in fortunes the competition helped bring about for Samir Nasri.

The Frenchman had not scored in three starts and been troubled by a knee problem that required minor surgery in August, when Arsenal headed to White Hart Lane for the third round Carling Cup tie on September 21.

Nasri’s was one of the surprise names on the teamsheet that night, but come the end of the game the 23-year-old was celebrating two successful strikes from the penalty spot in the 4-1 win.

Four days later he scored twice again, although this time in the shock 3-2 defeat to West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates, and he has not stopped scoring since.

Saturday’s double against Fulham made it 11 goals in his last 16 games in all competitions, and simultaneously saved Arsenal’s blushes and sent them top of the Premier League table.

“Many people questioned me when I took him here, but he is showing that he is an exceptional talent and I think there is more to come from him,” said Arsene Wenger at the weekend, perhaps a little smug at yet another transfer gamble that suddenly looks a bargain.

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Along with Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, Nasri is the country’s stand-out performer this season, and he admitted that he feels more at home now in his third season in north London, after taking his time to adapt following his move from hometown club Marseille in July 2008 and then suffering a broken leg in pre-season training in July 2009 that affected him for much of last season.

“I think I’m more mature in my football game and in my life now,” said Nasri. “I think more with my head.”

“I’m more at ease in the game and I’m not just looking for goals, I’m looking to work for the team.

“Before I felt too much pressure to score, I wanted it too much maybe. Now I don’t worry as much.

“When I’m in front of a goalkeeper I am more relaxed now.”