Manchester City and Chelsea today completed two of the biggest transfer deals in Europe this summer – the Citizens completing the protracted transfer of Arsenal and France midfielder Samir Nasri for £25m, whilst Chelsea have signed the Spanish World Cup winner Juan Manuel Mata from Valencia for £23.5m – but how will the two talented stars fit into their respective new sides?
Firstly, comes Mata, the 23-year-old creator who has signed a five-year deal with the West London club. The Spaniard provides an ageing Chelsea front line with a youthful zest – assuming that Romelu Lukaku, the 18-year-old Belgian powerhouse, isn’t thrown into first-team affairs any time soon – and more versatility than Chelsea supporters have come to be used to from their collection of forwards in recent times.
Predominantly during his time with Valencia, Mata has featured on the left-wing, so theoretically could provide competition for French winger Florent Malouda, as Andres Villas-Boas continues with his favoured 4-3-3 formation. Nevertheless, Mata is versatile enough to play a variety of roles, whether in Villas-Boas favoured shape, or if the Portugese deems a change is required to a 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1 0r 4-4-1-1.
Following the sale last summer of David Silva, and Alejandro Dominguez subsequent struggles to adjust to life at the Mestalla, Mata took on the trequarista role for Valencia in Unai Emery’s favoured 4-2-3-1 on a number of occasions, as he did also for the Spain under-21’s in their successful European Championship campaign this summer.
“The plan is that I can play on either flank or even in the middle playing in between the lines of midfield and attack,” said Mata after completing his move today.
“I like to keep the ball and use it well, I am an attacking player and above all I like to set up goals and score them also.”
However it is felt that the player – comfortable with either foot – will be used on the right-side of Andre Villas-Boas front three, as an inverted winger, being allowed more freedom to move in-field when he feels necessary, playing between the lines and looking to make clever through passes for compatriot Fernando Torres, whilst looking to play one-twos to create scoring chances for himself.
Yet, whilst Mata moves to a side where his position in the starting XI looks somewhat obvious to interested observers, the case of Nasri, and how he fits at his new club, is somewhat more unclear.
The Frenchman has, for the majority of his Arsenal career spent his time playing on the flanks of a forward trio, whether it be coming from the left or the right.
Yet, on occasions – mostly in the absence of then-captain Cesc Fabregas – Nasri stepped into the role of creator-in-chief at the Emirates Stadium, playing in an attacking central midfield role, dictating matches, a position more akin to that which he played at the Stade Velodrome when a precocious youngster at Marseille.
Now the job is up to City boss Roberto Mancini to find a role for the 24-year-old – a manager more inclined to line is side up as a defensive unit to contain and ease into matches, rather than one who goes for the jugular straight away – in his first eleven at the Etihad Stadium.
Mancini’s side has for the large part been a 4-2-3-1 evolution since his arrival in December 2009. It would appear that the main plan for Nasri’s arrival will see Yaya Toure drop into the defensive midfield line alongside Nigel De Jong, with Nasri taking his place in an attacking triumverate alongside the £38m signing Sergio Aguero and the fleet-footed Silva, with (depending on form, opposition and the latter’s potential wantawayness) either Eden Dzeko or Carlos Tevez.
Nonetheless, Mancini may use Nasri’s arrival to change his side’s shape to a 4-2-2-2 formation, the same shape the side took up against Bolton at the Reebok Stadium on Sunday, with Nasri replacing James Milner on the left of the attacking midfield duo, behind a striking partnership.
Irregardless of shape, Mancini will be looking for clever, intricate, tiki-taka from Nasri, Silva and Aguero, as he looks to lead City to the Premier League title.