By Miles Chambers
The bile that will be aimed at Samir Nasri on his return to Arsenal with Manchester City on Sunday is inevtiable but, with his new club's title hopes hanging by a tentative thread, the stakes have been raised and the Frenchman can look forward to an even hotter reception.
Nasri already experienced the hatred that fans of the north London club harbour for him when City visited in November for a League Cup match, which they won 1-0.
The game ended with an ugly confrontation between him and Emmanuel Frimpong, while the incessant chanting left little to the imagination. But why so much animosity towards Nasri in particular when so many have fled north London for the Etihad Stadium in recent times?
The answer is relatively straightforward. When Nasri trotted out the old line about "wanting to compete for silverware" and conveniently forgot to mention his decision to reject Arsenal's improved contract offer in order to double his money at City, the die was cast.
Players will always want to win trophies but what was it about Arsene Wenger’s side that made the talented Frenchman believe that he could not achieve success in the capital? The club were fighting on four fronts for a while last season before a spectacular collapse scuppered any suggestion of silverware.
Admittedly, so far the former Marseille man can point to the Premier League table to justify his £25 million transfer as City sit second, 13 points but just the solitary place above Arsenal.
Catching the Blues is impossible unless Roberto Mancini's charges completely capitulate. But Arsenal, three-time Premier League champions, can reap a measure of revenge on their former team-mate by denting their opponents' title hopes with a win or even a draw on Sunday.
There will be many an Arsenal fan who would argue that gifting Manchester United the trophy is not something to be celebrated. But, with City having rendered the red half of north London a poaching zone in recent times, Gooners seem to have taken a more relaxed attitude towards the prospect of the Red Devils landing their 20th league title and appear at peace with the prospect of helping to make it become a reality.
It is worth stepping back and remembering that the Blues are no unique case - countless Premier League clubs have been boosted as a result of a cash influx. Blackburn's solitary Premier League title was funded by the millions of Sir Jack Walker and that blueprint was followed by Chelsea following Roman Abramovich's takeover in 2003, which turned the west London club from also-rans into European heavyweights.
Despite the much-changed landscape, supporters still reserve a special brand of hatred for players whose major motivation would appear to lie in the health of their bank accounts.
Another key factor in understanding why Arsenal appear to resent Nasri so much was the timing of his departure.
When club captain and heart of the midfield, Cesc Fabregas, finally took his flirtation with Barcelona to its logical conclusion and hitched a ride to La Liga, Nasri appeared certain to inherit the Spaniard's role in the side as chief creator. That he shunned the extra reponsibility in favour of additional money two games into the season served as a knockout blow to Arsenal's vague title hopes.
|"When Nasri trotted out the old line about 'wanting to compete for silverware' & conveniently forgot to mention his decision to reject Arsenal's improved contract offer in order to double his money at City, the die was cast"
And then came the capitulation. One of the craziest results in Premier League history - Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal - prompted an unprecedented trolley-dash on deadline day and encapsulated the mess that the club was in at the end of August.
Thankfully for the sanity of Arsenal fans worldwide, the squad recovered and now sit a respectable third in the top flight, thanks in no small part to star striker Robin van Persie.
|BACK WITH A VENGEANCE
||Samir Nasri is 10/1 with Bet365 to score the first goal in Arsenal - Manchester City
Holding on for dear life to the Dutchman, who has scored 26 goals in the league campaign alone, will be the club’s top priority in the summer.
The overtures of Manchester City are anticipated but, should Nasri and his new team-mates suffer defeat at the hands of the Gunners this weekend, any potential exodus could be stalled, as Arsenal players might notice that the grass is not always greener at the Etihad Stadium.
Professional footballers exist in a realm far removed from the realities of everyday life and it never ceases to amaze when players are booed at their former clubs and act hurt or surprised.
Football is fuelled on emotion - fool about with the fuel and you have to expect a violent reaction. Nasri should be prepared for one such reception on Sunday.