Nacho Monreal: Everything You Need to Know About Arsenal's January Signing

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2013

Nacho Monreal: Everything You Need to Know About Arsenal's January Signing

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    Nacho Monreal was Arsenal's only signing of the January transfer window.

    Had Kieran Gibbs not been injured in the Gunners' final game of January, they may not have signed anyone at all. Instead, they acted quickly to bring in the Spanish international full-back.

    While it's clear that Monreal is a player of some calibre, he is far from a household name outside Spain.

    With that in mind, go to the next slide to discover more about the man earmarked as the solution to Arsenal's problematic left-back position.

Beginnings at Osasuna

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    Nacho Monreal came through the youth ranks at CA Osasuna, making his debut against Valencia in October 2006.

    At the time Osasuna were competing in Europe, and Monreal gained vital experience in both the Champions League and UEFA Cup (now Europa League).

    The following season he established himself as the first-choice left-back at Osasuna. The right-back in that side was Cesar Azpilicueta, who now plays his football across London at Chelsea.

    Over the next four years, Monreal established himself as one of La Liga's most reliable full-backs. His final season with Osasuna ended with the Spanish club finishing in a respectable ninth place in La Liga.

The Malaga Project

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    In the summer of 2011, Nacho Monreal moved to Malaga CF, joining the likes of Joaquin, Santi Cazorla and Julio Baptista in Sheikh Al Thani's revamped squad.

    His first season was a success, too. Monreal's form was superb, and Malaga finished in fourth place and subsequently qualified for the Champions League for the first time in their history.

    Unfortunately, that was to be the high point of Monreal's time with the club. Since then, Malaga have been beset with financial problems, forcing them to sell certain star players.

    Arsenal capitalised on this in the summer of 2012 when they pounced to secure Santi Cazorla. Monreal lasted another six months, but the club were not able to resist when Arsenal made them a favourable offer in January.

Nacho Monreal: Spanish International

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    Nacho Monreal followed a traditional route to the international stage.

    In 2007, following his ascension to the Osasuna first team, Monreal got his first call-up to the Spanish U-21 squad. He went on to compete in the 2009 European Championships, where Spain surprisingly exited in the group stage.

    Monreal, however, had done enough in that tournament to impress on an individual level. Just a couple of months later he earned his first call-up to the senior squad and made his debut as a late substitute in a victory over Macedonia.

    Monreal's major disappointment is that he missed out on the Spain squads for the triumphant World Cup and European Championship campaigns. The versatility of the likes of Raul Albiol and Alvaro Arbeloa meant that he was not needed as a reserve left-back.

Nacho Monreal's Future at Arsenal

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    Nacho Monreal looks to have a bright future at Arsenal.

    His first two appearances have brought two clean sheets, and with Kieran Gibbs injured and Andre Santos on the verge of a loan move to Gremio, he has a real chance to establish himself in the Arsenal first team.

    Once Kieran Gibbs is available again, a tremendous battle will ensue. Gibbs, a former winger, seems to have the advantage going forward, but Monreal has more experience and defensive nous than Gibbs.

    Such fierce competition can only be good news for Arsenal fans.