In his groggy 11am state, coffee on the table, bowl of Mini-Wheats resting on his lap, the author opened his laptop to this page which stated the transfer spending of every Premier League club after the close of deadline day to see Arsenal with a lonely, yet familiar £0 figure next to the crest.
His computer screen proceeded to absorb a tirade of expletive-ridden shouting which woke up the dog and made the crystal glasses in the kitchen hum before he calmed down, scrolled down the page and saw this sentence:
“23.07 DEAL! Arsene Wenger, you sneaky little bitch! Arsenal have signed Nacho Monreal from Malaga for roughly £10 million. In a service station just off the M1, Paul Konchesky pulls off his Andre Santos mask and savours a perfectly-executed prank.” (via telegraph.co.uk).
Hooray. Hooray hoorah huzzah.
Kieren Gibbs’ three-week absence with a thigh strain proved the catalyst to spur Arsene Wenger into action, unwilling to rely on the waning talents and non-existent confidence of stop-gap left-back Andre Santos, who has in recent weeks proved himself as useful to the Arsenal cause as Robert Mugabe is to the United Nations.
Though I know absolutely nothing of Monreal, this article by Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Tyler Conway gives you the vital statistics and lowdown on Arsenal’s new Spaniard, and suffice to say, he looks the business.
Solidifying his credentials is the speculated fee that Arsenal paid cash-strapped Malaga for the left-back; surely a cut-price fee from what the player is worth given the Spanish club’s well-documented financial woes but a hefty amount with which Arsene Wenger was evidently willing to part.
Fingers are universally crossed that this fee doesn't prove to be the utter waste of money that the £6.5 million fee paid to Fenerbahce for the steaming pile of defensive liability known as Andre Santos has become.
Monreal has represented the Spanish National Team on nine occasions and currently battles for a starting berth on the left side of defence with Barcelona wing-back Jordi Alba.
Speaking to Arsenal.com, Arsene Wenger stated,
“We are delighted that Nacho Monreal has agreed to join us. We have been monitoring him for some time now and are really pleased that we’ve been able to agree this move today. Monreal is a strong left-sided defender with good experience at both club and international level. He is a technically gifted player, a good crosser in the final third and strong in the air. Monreal will add quality to our squad and of course, to our defensive unit. We all look forward to him playing for us.” (via Arsenal.com)
However, the new purchase comes with strings attached: having played in the group stage of the Champions League with Malaga, Monreal is cup-tied for Arsenal’s Champions League quarter final contest with Bayern Munich, the first leg of which kicks off at the Emirates on February 19.
Given Wenger’s unwillingness to rely on Andre Santos, this means the Gunners will probably line up with Thomas Vermaelen on the left side of defence against the elite German outfit, who can count Thomas Mueller, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery among their plethora of menacing wide players.
Monreal’s signing, regardless, is a significant one for Arsenal. Though Wenger may have been forced into action by an injury to a relatively thin area of his team, the Spaniard’s inherent quality can only benefit the Gunners in the long-term.
Arsene Wenger’s style of play heavily emphasizes his full-backs, and the presence of another established international in the Arsenal ranks (and on the Arsenal flanks) will only add to the strength in depth that is paramount to challenging for domestic and continental honours.
Monreal’s progress will be closely followed by all quarters, but given his experience in a high-level league, his international experience and the fact that, at 26, he is entering the prime of his career. Pundits and fans alike can expect a solid level of performance—particularly when one is mindful of the tubby and loveable, but utterly crap alternative.