Nacho Monreal: Spanish Defender Finally Solves Gunners' Left-Back Problem
Arsene Wenger looks to have found the answer to Arsenal's issues at left-back in the form of Nacho Monreal.
The Spanish defender moved to the Emirates for £8 million (h/t John Cross of the Daily Mirror). The Gunners were able to benefit from Malaga's financial strife, as the transfer fee was quite a bargain compared to some of the exorbitant fees that have generally marked the January transfer window.
More importantly for the club, it keeps Andre Santos on the bench.
When the Brazilian left-back was purchased, it looked like a panic buy. Gael Clichy's departure left a big hole in the Arsenal back four, and Wenger rushed to find a replacement. He settled on Santos.
The results afterward have been a disaster.
Santos just looks off the pace and not equipped to handle the Premier League. So many times opposing teams have been able to expose Arsenal down the right flank.
Kieran Gibbs has shown some promise, but he's also had some trouble with injuries both this year and over the past few seasons. Wenger was smart to get some cover at the left-back position. Regardless of Gibbs' health, it's a good idea to have more than one reliable player at every position.
Wenger said (h/t The Guardian):
I believe we need two left-backs. You cannot play every single game with the same player. We had two before, we have two again now. If Gibbs is out for four to six weeks, from six it can easily go to eight [before he is competitive again] and that means two months in a very decisive period, so it is vital to have another left-back.
While he may be cup-tied for the Champions League, Monreal is the perfect kind of player for what the Gunners need. He's a very good defender. Unlike some full-backs who can sometimes get out of position, Monreal is not the kind of player who is all too eager to fly forward without giving a single thought to his defensive priorities.
This is not to say that Monreal isn't a threat in the attack, either. He wouldn't be at the Emirates if he couldn't get forward and launch in a nice cross.
The balance between attacking and defending is very delicate for a full-back and can take years to finely tune. Ashley Cole experienced those issues before becoming a world-class left-back.
Monreal comes in already extremely tactically aware, so there's not the worry that he'll need time to develop.
He's not going to blow anybody away with his play on the field, but Monreal is the kind of dependable defender that the club hasn't had in the past couple of seasons. Arsenal has been blighted by various defensive mistakes costing them vital points.
From a purely financial perspective, Monreal was also a very astute signing. The fee to bring him in was relatively minimal, so should the club want to sell him on or be pressed into doing so, it could still turn a profit.
Turning 27 years old on Feb. 26, Monreal is entering the prime of his career. By the time he starts to drop in ability, it will be time for Gibbs to take over on a more permanent basis.
Astute signings and Arsenal haven't exactly been synonymous lately, but that's exactly what Monreal was for the Gunners.
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