Arsène Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said at the beginning of Arsenal's tour of east Asia four weeks ago he was so determined to keep Nasri this season that he would rather lose him at the end of his deal next summer as a Bosman free agent and, in the process, write off upwards of £20m in lost fees.
Yet there is now an acceptance at the club that if and when City formalise their interest in the midfielder with a sizeable offer, in the region of £25m, they would be wise to accept, particularly as the player wants the transfer.
Nasri, who has stalled on signing the new contract on offer at Arsenal, which is worth £90,000 a week, knows that he could take home as much as double that at City. Arsenal's hand is being forced further by the reality that Nasri is extremely unlikely to agree to fresh terms at the club.
The City manager, Roberto Mancini, spoke after Sunday's Community Shield defeat to Manchester United of the need to "complete" his squad. "We have the targets we had at the start of pre-season," he said, as he ruled out the possibility of the Internazionale midfielder Wesley Sneijder being one of them. Mancini is on record as stating his admiration for Nasri, which has irritated Wenger. Arsenal, who signed the winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton on Monday, are now braced for a bid.
Nasri has told team-mates that he is relaxed about whether he stays or goes this summer but his conviction to leave has hardened in recent days and the situation has fuelled the feeling of unease behind the scenes at the London club.
Some of the squad have been demoralised by the Cesc Fábregas saga. The club captain is more intent than ever to return to Barcelona yet he remains at the club and with the armband, as the European champions have so far failed to approach Arsenal's £40m valuation. They are poised to improve on their original £27m offer and Fábregas is also prepared to help by waiving a £4m payoff in his contract. Fábregas has not featured in pre-season and he has hardly trained, which Wenger has attributed to a hamstring injury.
Nasri, meanwhile, did not travel to Lisbon at the weekend for the 2-1 friendly loss to Benfica because of what Wenger described as a "muscular problem" but, to general angst at Arsenal, he has joined up with the France squad in Montpellier, ahead of the friendly against Chile on Wednesday. Nasri trained and will start.
The disquiet in the Arsenal dressing room has not been helped by Wenger's relative lack of activity on the transfer market, although it is proving difficult for many managers to force various issues. As Wenger has admitted, Arsenal need a central defender with Premier League experience but he has been frustrated so far in his pursuit of Everton's Phil Jagielka and Bolton Wanderers' Gary Cahill.
Wenger completed the signing of the 17-year-old Oxlade-Chamberlain for a fee that could rise to £12m subject to add-ons but with the clamour for established stars who could fire a title challenge, the timing of the deal feels unfortunate. That is not Oxlade-Chamberlain's fault and the player who can also be used as a second striker in the same mould as Theo Walcott, who made the same move from Southampton to Arsenal in 2006, is relishing the opportunity to test himself in the Premier League. He underwent his medical on Monday.
When Wenger outlined his hardline stance over Nasri in Malaysia, he also said Arsenal could not be considered a "big club" if they sold both Nasri and Fábregas this summer. "Because a big club holds on to its big players and gives a message to all the other big clubs that they cannot come in and take them away from you."
But Wenger's preparations for the Premier League season opener at Newcastle United on Saturday have been thrown into turmoil by the prospect of him losing his two best midfielders.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010