Nacho Monreal: Early Read on the Contribution of Arsenal's January Signing

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2013

Nacho Monreal: Early Read on the Contribution of Arsenal's January Signing

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    Nacho Monreal has enjoyed an eventful first couple of months with Arsenal.

    Although his participation in the Champions League with Malaga forced him to sit out the tie with Bayern Munich, he has competed for Arsenal in an array of intriguing Premier League and FA Cup encounters.

    There have been significant highs, particularly the crucial goal in the Premier League clash with Swansea.

    However, like any Arsenal defender, he has had low moments too. The derby defeat to Tottenham will hopefully prove to be the nadir of an otherwise successful Arsenal career.

    Continue on to the next slide as we assess this first portion of Monreal's time with Arsenal.

Nacho Monreal: Defensive Duties

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    Nacho Monreal arrived at Arsenal with a reputation for being a reliable defender, and for the most part he was lived up to that billing.

    Monreal's Arsenal debut came against Stoke. Monreal found himself face-to-face with Jonathan Walters, whose physical approach meant that Monreal endured something of a baptism of fire.

    However, the Spaniard emerged unscathed and played a crucial part in keeping two clean sheets in his first two games.

    There have been moments of weakness: in the derby defeat to Spurs, Monreal was a guilty party in Arsenal's comical attempt at an offside trap. Similarly, he was out-muscled by Hal Robson-Kanu when the Welshman headed in for Reading at the Emirates.

    Those moments of uncertainty are an inevitable part of the adaptation process for a player who has been thrown in at the deep end.

    What is certain is that he has been far more defensively reliable than Andre Santos could ever have been.

Nacho Monreal: Attacking Ambitions

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    Nacho Monreal is a defender first and foremost. However, Arsenal fans will have been impressed by his early attacking contributions.

    In just his fourth appearance for the club he created the winner for former Malaga teammate Santi Cazorla, sprinting on to a Jack Wilshere through-ball and squaring the ball beautifully across the box for Cazorla to fire home.

    He also grabbed his first goal for the club in the away win at Swansea, latching onto an Olivier Giroud lay-off to shoot across Michel Vorm and find the bottom corner.

    Many expected Monreal to be a solid defender. Few expected him to contribute quite so quickly to the attacking side of Arsenal's game.

Nacho Monreal: Established International

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    Since joining Arsenal, Nacho Monreal has come of age on the international stage.

    In the absence of Barcelona's Jordi Alba, Monreal started Spain's crucial double-header against Finland and France. Although the Finland game ended in a disappointing draw, the World and European Champions responded by winning the vital qualifier in Paris.

    Monreal was a key figure on the night, creating the winner for Pedro and helping Spain keep a clean sheet with an assured defensive display.

Nacho Monreal vs. Kieran Gibbs

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    Few positions in the Arsenal squad are the subject of such intense competition as the left-back spot. Both Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal possess some outstanding qualities, and it will be fascinating to see who emerges as Arsene Wenger's first-choice left-back.

    Thus far, Arsene Wenger hasn't had to make a clear choice. Kieran Gibbs has been out with injury, and when Gibbs was fit to face Bayern Munich, Monreal was cup-tied.

    However, as Gibbs returns to full fitness, we will see who ends up coming out on top.

    My money is on Monreal. With Arsenal facing a tense run-in in the race for Champions League qualification, I expect Arsene Wenger to plump for the Spaniard's experience over Gibbs' exuberance.


    What have you made of Monreal thus far? Let us know below.