ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger has urged Gunners fans still angry at Samir Nasri’s summer defection to Manchester City not to boo him when he returns to Emirates Stadium for the first time tonight.
France midfielder Nasri provoked fury among some Arsenal supporters by refusing to sign a new contract last season, leaving the club little option but to sell to Manchester City, where he doubled his wages.
He is in contention to be in the City side that vies with his former colleagues for a place in the Carling Cup semi-finals this evening, but Wenger has pleaded with fans to leave their vitriol at the turnstiles.
“I hope Samir gets a good reception. Personally I want every player who has played for us to be respected when they come back,” said the Gunners coach, who paid £12m for him as a 21-year-old in 2008.
“Samir improved tremendously while he was with us. He has developed fantastically well from a non-scoring player to a guy who could make a decision. He was an important player here and I’m sure he will be for Man City as well.”
Wenger and his opposite number Roberto Mancini are expected to make sweeping changes to teams who both drew in the Premier League at the weekend. Nasri (inset) played 65 minutes of City’s 1-1 stalemate at Liverpool, although their midfield options have been limited slightly by the suspensions of Mario Balotelli and Gareth Barry.
Young Arsenal midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Emmanuel Frimpong are set to be recalled while Marouane Chamakh is in line for a rare start as Wenger rests senior stars.
Despite the changes, the Frenchman insists he is keen to avoid a defeat that could knock his team’s recovery from a dreadful start to the season, even if he admits to prioritising getting back into the top four.
“It’s always a blow to lose a game. Today that is not going through my mind, it is just to do as well as possible and to qualify,” he added.
“When we you are in a competition of course you want to win it. The target is to finish in the top four though, it’s as simple as that. What engages the whole future of the club is being in the top four.”