After 12 happy years spent with Olympique de Marseille, Samir Nasri opted to fly the nest this summer, spreading his wings to join the burgeoning French community at Arsenal. It proved a difficult decision for the 21-year-old, but it immediately began to look like the right one when he marked his first appearance with the winning goal and Man of the Match honours against West Bromwich Albion last week.
Advised to take the leap by his friends Djibril Cisse and Nicolas Anelka, Nasri believes that he has ultimately made the correct choice. As he explained to FIFA.com: "When I signed for Arsenal, I knew I wasn't heading into the unknown."
FIFA.com: Having scored in your very first match for Arsenal, you seem to have adapted quickly to English football.
Samir Nasri: I couldn't have dreamt of a better debut but I can't guarantee that I'll score in every match. When I met the boss (Arsene Wenger), he warned me that, in general, it takes six months to adapt. He mentioned Emmanuel Petit and Robert Pires as examples. But I was expecting to find the change more difficult. It's true that there's more physical contact than in France, but the biggest difference is in the intensity of the game, which is much higher here. The style Arsenal play in - attacking, one-touch football with constant movement - suits me perfectly. That's what I was looking for. And I've also been impressed by the quality of the training sessions, which are very similar to French national team sessions, and by the repetition work we do on passing. I now understand better why Arsenal's play looked so fluid on TV. It's fantastic. I'm loving it!
Why did you leave your hometown club, Marseille, at just 21 years of age?
I had a fairly difficult season last year, with lots of little health problems that kept me away from the pitch. Part of me wanted to move on to progress and raise my game. I'd been at OM since I was 12, and even if I didn't get to experience winning a title, I'd seen it all: the youth academy, four years with the pros and good times as well as crises. Added to that, I was living with my parents. It was time to become independent.
Did joining Arsenal seem like the natural choice at the time?
Not to begin with because Arsenal came in later. There were other clubs, but when my agent told me the Gunners were interested, that immediately became the priority for both me and my father. You just have to look at what the club has done in the last few years. Arsenal put a lot of faith in youth and all the French players who have come here have made an explosive impression. There's a guarantee with Arsenal; they're a club synonymous with success. And then there's Mr. Wenger. . Don't forget that I'm only 21; not 26, 27 or 28. I don't have a lot of international experience, so for my first experiment abroad Arsenal is ideal.
Have you already noticed a difference between OM and Arsenal?
I was at a big French club and today I'm at a big European club. When you arrive here, you get an English mobile phone with all the important numbers in it. There's a guy on call 24 hours a day. When you show up at training, you're given your own personalised training programme. It's on a whole other level. Despite that, it's not a factory here. In the canteen at midday, you eat side-by-side with the women's team and the club's youngsters. Arsenal is a family as well.
Like many observers in England, Arsene Wenger has said you could go on to enjoy a similar career to Robert Pires.
If you told me today I could have the same career as him, I'd sign up immediately with my eyes closed! At the time, he was the best left-sided midfielder in the world. He scored and set up loads of goals. We have pretty much the same characteristics: instead of staying out on the wing, he liked to come inside a lot.
What was your aim when you agreed to move abroad?
I'm here to step up to another level, which ought to help my cause with the France team. If, in the near future, I want to become a regular with Les Bleus, I need to be a starter for a club like Arsenal. Being here has a bigger impact.