Samir Nasri cowering in the wall as Robin van Persie curled the ball past Joe Hart in the Manchester derby. That is the image engrained in the minds of Manchester City fans of the disastrous 2012/13 season.
What a difference a year makes.
It would have been hard to find a player in new manager Manuel Pellegrini’s squad more vilified for the Blues failures last year than the 26 year-old Frenchman.
However with a change in manager and a change in philosophy, Nasri looks to be a different player.
Despite making an immediate impact after his £25million move from Arsenal in 2011, he did not command the same level of adulation from the City fans as other members of the squad that won the club’s first league title in 44 years.
As the club’s form deteriorated under Roberto Mancini last year, the performances of Nasri were highlighted as one of the examples of the club’s high profile stars appearing to rest on their laurels of the previous year.
Speaking prior to the Viktoria Plzen fixture last week, the Frenchman spoke of his struggles mentally last year after he was strongly criticised by the French media following a disappointing European Championship.
He said that had affected the quality of his performances during last year and explained how he spoke with his family and his agent in pre-season to help him overcome his issues.
Fast forward to 2013 and the events of the previous year have helped him grow as a player and as a person.
Whatever was said to eradicate his demons has worked, as the upturn in the form of the mercurial Frenchmen has brought about a profound shift in the attitudes towards the player from the City faithful.
Despite scoring in the opening game, as the Blues hammered Newcastle 4-0, the midfielder appeared to be on the periphery of Pellegrini’s first team, with the manager opting for summer signing Jesus Navas in his place.
However when Spanish playmaker Silva went down with an injury and the Blues fans feared the worst, Nasri stepped into the breach and has not looked back since.
As Nasri stroked in City’s fourth in the derby demolition any lingering memories of his cowardice the previous year had been eradicated.
Although his assist tally looks rather poultry at two, he has developed a telepathic relationship with Serbian Aleksander Kolarov on the left-hand side.
Their link-up play helped break the deadlock in the Manchester derby, with Nasri drawing defenders to him before releasing the full-back to cross for Sergio Aguero to turn the ball home.
Nasri and Kolarov were at it again on Wednesday night as they linked up, the Frenchman dragging the defenders away before slipping a pass to the 28 year-old who crossed for Yaya Toure to steer City into a two-goal lead.
With the defensive shackles being released, Nasri has flourished under Pellegrini and appears to be growing in confidence in the knowledge his manager has faith in his ability.
Confidence has been key to his revival under the Chilean and with every passing game he looks more like the player City thought they were signing when they opened the chequebook to prize him from Arsenal after he was crowned French Footballer of the year in 2010.
Nasri has been at the heart of City’s scintillating football, helping the club average four goals a game at the Etihad and reach the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time.
With three goals in his last three games, a rejuvenated Nasri is weaving his magic once more.
Image courtesy of MCFC, with thanks.