Analysis: Is Mikel Arteta really a better playmaker than Samir Nasri?

There are several prescribed solutions for a longer, healthier, happier life; don't stress about work, eat well, try and get at least eight hours sleep a night and don't inject heroin into your eyeballs while driving at 120mph around a winding mountain road.

But perhaps the most crucial is 'ignore everything Piers Morgan says'.

Generally that's something we at FourFourTwo try to do, but one of the smarmy smug-lord’s Twitter-based blatherings on Sunday got us thinking - is Mikel Arteta really a better player than Samir Nasri?

Eighteen months ago there would have been little debate. In the first half of 2010/11, Nasri was in electric form. The then-Gunners playmaker scored 13 goals in his 25 appearances between the start of the campaign and 1st January 2011, also contributing four assists.

Conversely, Arteta was struggling at Everton, having still not fully rediscovered his mojo following a knee injury that had ruled him out for most of 2009. But while Nasri's form in the second half of the season dipped, with just two goals and one assist coming in his final 21 outings for the North London side, Arteta slowly started to re-find his. So much so that, when Nasri (and Cesc Fabregas) departed N5 in the summer, Arsene Wenger moved to bring him in as a replacement.

Although there is little question Arteta had the better of Sunday's meeting between Arsenal and City at the Emirates Stadium, both players have found form of late.

While Arsenal's No.8 has won plaudits for his role in the Gunners' resurgence in the final third of the season, Nasri's improved showings have perhaps slipped under the radar.

The Frenchman was named City's player of the month for March by both fans and the club, and was particularly impressive in City's 2-1 win over Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium on March 21, scoring the home side's late winner after a neat exchange of passes with Carlos Tevez. His absence from the frustrating 3-3 draw with Sunderland at the end of the month was perhaps telling.

A direct comparison between the two players is difficult given they generally operate in slightly different roles. Nasri looks to trouble the opposition by finding spaces between the defence and midfield - be that out wide or around the 'D'. Arteta, meanwhile, generally occupies a deeper position, rarely venturing as far forward as the opposition penalty area or into wide areas, but instead looking to play balls into these areas. But nonetheless, they are both playmakers whose primary objective is to keep their team in possession and create openings.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the aforementioned differences in their roles and playing styles, Arteta has completed more passes than Nasri (2,200 to 1,339), with the Man City man attempting more crosses (121 to 109). At this stage it is worth adding that the pair’s passing and crossing completion rates are both within 1% of each other’s.

What’s more surprising is that Arteta has attempted far more passes into the attacking third of the pitch than his City counterpart.

Arteta has laid on just the two Premier League assists to Nasri’s seven, but interestingly the Spaniard has created 63 goal-scoring opportunities, two more than the Frenchman. Would it have killed Robin van Persie to be a little more clinical in front of goal...?

When it comes to the defensive side of the game, there is only one winner. Arteta has made more tackles (71 to 17), more interceptions (55 to 28), more clearances (41 to 17), and more blocks (6 to 1), though this has all perhaps come at the cost of having conceded more fouls (41 to 17).

The former Everton man also comes out on top when it comes to bothering the back of the net. Arteta has scored seven goals from 27 shots, 14 of which have been on target, giving him a shooting accuracy of 52% and a chance conversion rate of 26%. Nasri, on the other hand, has scored four goals from 24 shots, 11 of which were on target, giving him a shooting accuracy of 46% and chance conversion rate of 17%.

On the basis of this season's evidence, it seems Arteta has quite comfortably been the better of the two players. Given Arsene Wenger turned a £14 million profit when replacing Nasri with the Spaniard, you'd have to say things have worked out pretty well for the wily Alsatian. If only Yossi Benayoun had turned out to be better than Cesc Fabregas...

In the final analysis, having adjusted their respective games since last summer's transfers, Arteta and Nasri fulfil different roles, each achieving his end artistically and effectively. Not to mention the fact Nasri is a good five years younger than Arteta. Comparing them directly is akin to making a spurious crowd-pleasing decision between a singer and a dance troupe - and what kind of attention-grabber would thrive on that, eh Piers?

ANALYSIS Bale needs to shelve quest for freedom, for the good of Spurs

'Big up' to Opta's Mark Hazell for his additional statistical brilliance.

Topics