Nasri undaunted by Old Trafford trip
Samir Nasri claims Old Trafford has lost its fear factor as Arsenal look to stay top of the Premier League with victory over title rivals Manchester United on Monday night.
While both managers Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson have attempted to defuse the tension ahead of the showdown, United defender Patrice Evra lit the blue touch paper by branding Arsenal nothing more than a "training centre" and claiming the Gunners were in "crisis" having not won a trophy since 2004, while midfielder Park Ji-sung has raised further question marks about the London club's ability to sustain a title challenge.
Arsenal last won at Old Trafford in September 2006, but Nasri maintains the current United team lack the same aura of recent seasons.
"For me Manchester United is not the same team as before, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Tevez it was a little bit scary to play at Old Trafford," Nasri declared. "Now I don't think offensively they are the same as before, but still they are a good team and when they are 1-0 up is very hard to beat them. We will see, but we are really confident to get a result out of this game."
Arsenal may have struggled for consistency at home, with three Premier League defeats already, but away Wenger's men have won five times - including an impressive 3-0 victory at Manchester City.
"The difference when we play away is that we defend much better. Our discipline and shape is more efficient when we play away," Nasri said. "I am quite confident because we can play our game and we know we can score at any moment away. We have to reproduce this kind of game at home and to be more efficient at home as well."
Nasri took his tally to 12 goals with another well-executed strike in the midweek UEFA Champions League win over Partizan Belgrade at Emirates Stadium. The 23-year-old - who had a spell on the sidelines earlier in the season following knee surgery - believes his absence from the ill-fated FIFA World Cup squad proved to be a positive.
"I had a good break this summer for the first time in my life. I had a rest for two months," he said. "I am used to playing in the Premier League now, I have my mark, I am confident and all my team-mates are confident with me so after that I feel ok."
Wenger believes Nasri's extra summer break allowed him to play with a new-found freedom. "The French players who were away at the World Cup had to overcome mental heaviness in their heads and on their shoulders because they were not welcome back to France. He never had that handicap," the Arsenal manager said. "What is good enough for me is that he is playing very well."
Wenger has seen a mental change in the midfielder. "For a long time when you play football, if you are not convinced you can score goals you accept it somewhere," he said. "When you get that taste for goals that reinforces you and that is what I believe has changed. He knows now that he can score goals in every single game so he doesn't give up that idea during the game."