LONDON, April 14 – Roberto Mancini may have been joking when he said he would like to punch Samir Nasri, but the Manchester City manager could have no complaints about the France midfielder’s impact on Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final over Chelsea.
Nasri has infuriated Mancini on numerous occasions with his lax attitude since joining City from Arsenal last season and the Italian’s response has grown increasingly tetchy.
After a rare impressive effort from Nasri against Newcastle last month, Mancini was asked about the star’s erratic performances for City this season and he delivered a pointed message.
“I would like to give him a punch,” Mancini said with half a smile. “Because a player like him should play like this always. Always. Every game.
“Maybe one game sometimes he can play badly but with his quality that is all.”
That very public dressing down fuelled speculation that Mancini was ready to cut his losses with Nasri and would listen to offers at the end of the season.
But, if the Italian still had doubts about Nasri’s value, he may have to think again after the Frenchman rose to the occasion at Wembley.
For once Mancini could have no complaints as Nasri delivered an influential display capped by scoring City’s opening goal in their 2-1 win against Cup holders Chelsea at Wembley.
There was a hint of luck about the goal as Nasri was attempting to play a return pass to Sergio Aguero when a fortunate rebound wrong-footed the Chelsea defence and allowed him to slot past Petr Cech in the 35th minute.
If lady luck had smiled on Nasri, there was little doubt his vibrant display deserved to be rewarded.
Together with Aguero and Yaya Toure, he was at the heart of City’s best moments as they set up a final clash with Wigan.
Drifting in from the right to good effect, Nasri’s efforts vindicated Mancini’s tough love approach.
Even during City’s Premier League title-winning campaign last season, Nasri sometimes cut a disinterested figure.
Mancini, well known for his autocratic approach to man management, has attempted to rile Nasri into action with public dressing downs and this season his frustration at that tactic’s failure had become increasingly obvious.
“I think Samir has fantastic qualities. With his quality, he should always play well,” Mancini said in February.
“Every game he could be the difference. A player of this quality could be one of the best players in Europe. But it’s not happening.”
That scathing assessment rang true at the time.
But the sight of Nasri tracking back diligently as City clung onto their lead in the closing stages at Wembley told a different story.
When he came off in the final moments, the rousing reception from City’s fans and warm greeting from Mancini confirmed Nasri was back in favour.
At last it seems Mancini’s message may have got through.