During the January transfer window one thing was clear, Arsenal needed signings. More so, due to Kieran Gibbs’ unfortunate but rather inevitable (as we have come to expect) injury. The thought that we would have to depend on Andre Santos at left back for any amount of time was one that nobody who holds Arsenal dear was willing to entertain. Luckily though, Arsene Wenger was on the same wavelength as everyone else on this. He quickly raided Malaga for the second time in less than a year, and brought in Nacho Monreal.
I must admit I had never heard of him before, which is annoyingly typical of many Arsenal signings over the past few years (see Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny etc). The only consolation I held was that Malaga have emerged as one of the teams in Europe that seems to churn out world class talent on a constant basis. That said though, I still had my doubts and even youtube at the time did not have any comprehensive coverage of him. However due to the Gibbs’ injury, Santos ineptitude, and nature of the transfer (deadline day and all), I did not have to wait long to see him play. He made his debut in the fixture at home against StokeCity, 2 days after his arrival and boy what a performance he produced.
In whatever perspective you want to look at it, Nacho still comes out on top. First of all, this was a game where we had to improvise defensively following a last minute injury to Koscielny, so you wouldn’t have expected the back line to run with any sort of cohesion. Secondly, it was against Stoke (the premier league bullies). Thirdly, not only was this his debut, the transfer was so sudden and hurried that he hadn’t even said goodbye to his former teammates. He was still very much in transition. Yet despite all this, he put in a performance that wowed even the deepest sceptics around. From the first contribution he made in the game, it was clear that we had struck oil.
I can confidently say that Nacho is arguably the best left-back we’ve had (defensively) since Ashley Cole abandoned us for the blues. I have watched every game he’s played since he signed for us and his attributes are there for every one to see. The trait that sets him aside from the plethora of left-backs who’ve tried to succeed Ashley Cole, is his positional discipline. Nacho knows that he is a defender first and that forms the basis of his game. Even when he attacks, he has his system geared to tracking back in case our opponents counter attack. This is massive for us, because he knows when to go forward and when to hold his line at the back. As a result he has completely shut our opponents out on that left wing. Against Aston Villa, Cazorla who played on the left did not have to support him defensively even once. That is how good he is.
Another impressive attribute is his strength in the air. All I will say about this is that Nacho is 5’10 and he absolutely dominated the game against Stoke aerially. If that doesn’t speak for itself then maybe everything I have known since I evacuated my mother’s uterus is wrong, and Spurs are actually champions of Europe. Then there is his tackling, an area which he is decidedly outstanding.
Against Aston Villa there is a tackle he made on the left touch line (I can’t quite remember against who) to keep our attack alive. I was left in awe. I only saw such feats from Roberto Carlos. His ability to dispossess players on the tackle without committing fouls is positively shocking, to say the least. I am inclined to believe that that particular tackle earned him a place in goal.com’s team of the week.
Finally, his attacking threat: let us not forget that his assist earned us three points last weekend. I can’t yet say he is as good as Gibbs when going forward but Arsene seems to believe that this side of his game will come out eventually. Even if it does not, he still has earned the right to be our first choice number 3 even when Gibbs is fit. Nacho has turned the tables in the sense that in a position where we were woefully lacking, we now have two of the best in the league.
The cherry on the cake is that we acquired him for around 8.4 million pounds. That is about 2 million pounds more than we got Santos for. Incredible! Plus he only turned 27 recently so he still has a good 6-8 years of service to the Arsenal. Save for the signing of Cazorla, this is the first time Wenger has got it right in a while.
In times when we are in turmoil and constantly under siege, Nacho is one of the few things that remind us we are the Arsenal and not just some mid table team struggling to get by. With a few right moves in the market to complement him, we could build a team that will rein havoc on the likes of Spurs for years to come.
COME ON YOU GOONERS!!!
Written by: Marcus