The quality signing Arsenal fans craved?
Finally, Arsene Wenger has decided to remove the dust from the Arsenal check book to sign Nacho Monreal from Malaga (via Arsenal.com). The 26-year-old full back has signed a four-and-a-half year deal worth in the region of £50,000 per week (via Daily Mail)
Despite the fact that Wenger has openly stated his hatred for the January transfer window (via the Guardian), this signing was out of necessity with the unfortunate injury suffered by Kieran Gibbs when Arsenal hosted Liverpool on Wednesday night.
Arsenal has had its fair share of superb left backs from the days of the all-English affair that had Nigel Winterburn to the technically proficient and pacy Sylvinho and Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
As that generation phased out, Arsenal brought Ashley Cole to the limelight and he forged an extremely telepathic understanding with Robert Pires on the left-hand side.
After Cole left the club in acrimonious circumstances, Wenger laid his eggs on a Gael Clichy basket, and the Frenchman served the Gunners with valor marauding the left flank with his blistering pace while balancing his defensive play.
When Clichy decided not to renew his contract, he opted for the petro-greens of Manchester City, forcing Wenger to unearth the gem called Kieran Gibbs.
Gibbs failed to make his mark in the start of his Arsenal career courtesy of niggling injuries, and that infamous slip against Manchester United in the 2008/09 Champions League semifinal didn’t go down well with a faction of Arsenal fans worldwide.
The English lad worked really hard on his fitness and has matured into one of the finest left backs in the Premier League while trying his best to contend with the likes of Leighton Baines in the international scene.
Last season, Gibbs added some goals to his game, and his belter against Swansea in the FA Cup third round gets better with each passing replay.
With Gibbs facing a spell on the sidelines, I expect Monreal to be drafted straight into the squad, with Andre Santos clearly struggling with his charades of inconsistent performances.
Without further ado, here are 10 things you need to know about Ignasio Monreal Eraso;
Out of the blue, probably well-scouted and well thought-of.
Relatively unknown, blessed with great technique and has got everyone buzzing. The signing of Monreal epitomizes Wenger’s exploits in the transfer market.
When Monreal played for Malaga in their maiden Champions League this season taking on Zenit, AC Milan and Anderlecht, no one had imagined that he’ll be playing Premier League football in the winter.
Arsenal fans had resigned to not seeing any player 'til the summer at least, but Wenger popped up on transfer deadline day with this signing.
That’s just Arsene Wenger for you folks, the old wily fox.
Monreal was born in Pamplona, the city that houses Club Atletico Osasuna.
They play their games in Reyno de Navarra and they have had their fair share of epic displays in Liga BBVA. Osasuna is nowhere in the mold of Real Madrid or Barcelona, and they only have three Liga Adelante trophies to show for it.
The club has its fair share of legends, but none can be compared to Patxi Punal, that has been with the club since 1997.
Arsenal also has its own history with the outfit from Pamplona, as the Gunners sent a young Carlos Vela in the 2007/08 campaign. Vela currently has his roots in La Liga, as he’s plying his trade for Real Sociedad.
In recent times, Arsenal has been renowned as a team synonymous with all sorts of injuries. Even though this is a trait not worth having in a team, Arsenal’s playing personnel have proven that it’s no bluff.
Since the Gunners move to the Emirates, players like Robin van Persie, Abou Diaby, Tomas Rosicky, Thomas Vermaelen, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and more recently, Bacary Sagna have had long-term injury layoffs that robbed Arsenal off their services.
Nacho Monreal, on the other hand, has featured consistently in all the teams he has played for without any major spell on the sidelines.
He was a mainstay in the Osasuna first team since his breakthrough season and in his debut campaign with Malaga last season, Monreal featured in 31 of the 38 available Liga BBVA matches.
With Kieran Gibbs’s injury problems surfacing yet again, Monreal will maraud Arsenal’s left flank in the coming months. It’s really sad to know that he’s cup-tied in the Champions League, though.
In the days of old, Wenger opted for honing young talent that usually ended up being snapped by the predators of European football. At the ripe football age of 26, Monreal has been been there and done that in football.
For many years, Spain had Joan Capdevila bomb down the left flank but he has been replaced by Barcelona’s Jordi Alba.
Monreal has been identified by Vicente del Bosque and he has managed to notch up nine caps for his nation thus far, after stints with the Spanish Under-19s and Under-21s.
At the moment, Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs is right up there with the best left backs in the Premier League.
Week-in week-out, the young fullback has been very consistent and has forged a good understanding with Lukas Podolski on the left-hand side.
With 23 Premier League games gone, Gibbs has featured in 19 games and he has been ever-present figure in other competitions.
When there’s no Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal has tried to deploy its skipper, Thomas Vermaelen, on that flank but there have also been moments when Wenger chose to play the calamitous Andre Santos in Gibbs stead...and to be honest, Andre Santos has been very poor.
He doesn’t think before his dives into tackles, he’s always caught out of position and his attacking output has become as putrid as his defensive performances.
When Gibbs suffered an injury against Liverpool, I’d thought that Wenger would bring on Laurent Koscielny, drafting Vermaelen to the left as he has done before.
The manager chose to bring Andre Santos and he had a hand in the second goal scored by Jordan Henderson. Even though the midfielder skipped past Vermaelen as if he wasn’t there, Andre Santos couldn’t shove him off the ball and he entered the box to score, with a stroke of luck, of course.
When it seemed as if a draw was a satisfactory result for both sides, Andre Santos gave possession to Liverpool in the 92nd minute and a counter attack launched by the opposition almost provided a sucker punch if Luis Suarez was more accurate with his shooting.
Monreal will have the threat of Gibbs to contend with when he returns to full fitness, but he’s a way better option than Andre Santos at the moment.
Arsenal is a team that’s renowned to a large haul of technicians in its team.
In attack, Lukas Podolski’s technique is second to none, and his screamer against Montpellier showed it off. Olivier Giroud's technique with the ball is also unrivaled as well, as his linkup play, deft touches and finishes has shown the football world what he’s made of.
Theo Walcott’s technique isn’t fully refined yet, but Arsenal has had the opportunity to see it with each passing game.
In midfield, Arsenal’s football technicians are as much as the hair in Marouane Fellaini’s head. Santi Cazorla currently rules in that realm but he’s followed closely by Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin.
Nacho Monreal is an accomplished crosser of the ball, and his lofted balls into the box will be beneficial to Arsenal’s headmaster, Olivier Giroud. He’s also an adept passer of the ball, holds up play brilliantly and last season, he had a completed tackle rate of 83 percent.
In Malaga this season, Monreal has fought tooth and nail with Eliseu for the right to become the club’s left back and this healthy competition has brought out the best in both players.
Monreal played two Champions League fixtures against Zenit St. Petersburg and Anderlecht with performances that certainly caught the eye.
While having the stamina levels of an ox, Monreal is also known for his high work rate, works really hard for his team and plays like a matador with the pitch being his bull.
Many a time, Arsenal has had its fair share of players without any desire to excel on the pitch so having a player like Monreal, that shares the same zeal with Wilshere, will be very beneficial to the team.
Monreal will fit easily into Arsenal’s fluid and intricate style of football that involves the use of a steady passing play, great off-the-ball movement, the use of a playmaker, target man and a patient build-up while frustrating the opposition defense.
As stated earlier, Monreal is a technically adept footballer that is good with the ball at his feet. He knows how to link his teammates up and he knows when and how to hold up the ball on the left.
Like Gibbs, I see him forging a good understanding with Podolski.
Monreal’s primary job on the pitch will be to balance his defensive and attacking play, but as a natural fullback with a decent amount of pace, Monreal will be odds on to support Lukas Podolski in attack, offering him a channel on the left to send those crosses to Giroud’s path.
Let’s just hope that unlike Andre Santos, he’ll be mindful of his defensive bearings as well.
When Arsene Wenger sees that raw talent in a player, he goes for him and uses his alchemy to transform the player from lead to gold. Like many shrewd signings before him, Arsene Wenger rates Monreal highly and he has aired his views on the defender (via Arsenal.com),
“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.”
Arsenal’s defense has been in shambles recently and it’s good to know that Wenger has chosen to strengthen a part of the team that was in dire need of an able reinforcement, as Gibbs couldn’t be trusted to stay fit all season long.
Arsenal fans wanted a center forward that scores for fun like Falcao and a holding midfielder that could break more legs than Nigel de Jong. The club has gotten Nacho Monreal, and I look forward to seeing his contributions for years to come.
This article is also featured in Toni Okike's Arsenal blog, Gooner Daily