Many Arsenal fans, myself included, were keenly locked into SkySportsNews' transfer deadline day coverage - hoping and praying that our beloved Gunners would plunge into the ARSENAL WARCHEST™ to sign a defensive midfielder and maybe even a striker. Alas, Nacho Monreal ended up swapping Malaga for London and here we are today. At the time, the signing was understandable -- Kieran Gibbs had just been ruled out for a few weeks, leaving the effervescent character Andre Santos as the only listed left-back in the first team squad -- and there have always been questions around Gibbs' ability to remain injury free for a sustained period of time.
Even in his short period at Arsenal, the Peter Crouch look-a-like has been quietly putting in a string of good performances. Upon his arrival, The Gunners immediatley kept three clean sheets in a row. Of course, he shouldn't take all of the credit for this, but it is not by coincidence that Arsenal have only concided 2 goals in 6 games since he joined, back in January.
Just watching the left-back it is clear to see that he's a player that understands his own game awfully well. He is not a tremendously fast player, yet positions himself well enough to adequately deal with wingers that are faster than him. On the other end of the pitch, he is slowly starting to round out his limited offensive game. Whilst he was a little tentative to venture forward in his first few games, we are slowly starting to see him find a place in attacking situations; culminating in his first goal for the club in Saturday's win against Swansea. Granted, it was a little scruffy, but he was in a good position and it was very encouraging to see.
The modern full-back tends to be attack first, defend later. Players like Dani Alves and his Brazilian counterpart Marcelo are great examples of this. Even in the Premier League Leighton Baines is consensus 'full back of the season' -- yet is known primarily for his attacking exploits.
Nacho Monreal is different. He puts defence first and it is refreshing to see. He stretches the pitch with his positioning on the wing when the Gunners attack, yet doesn't offer too much. This isn't a bad thing. Arsené Wenger has even said his attacking instincts will continue to develop and improve as he learns more about this team. One thing is for certain though, I'd rather have a full-back that could defend first, and then we can worry about attacking -- as opposed to the other way round. Like André Santos or Emmanuel Eboué. Actually, Santos couldn't attack well either.
The €10m paid for Monreal seemed a smidgen too high, but if he continues his impressive, consistent start, there's no reason why he shouldn't be the clubs first choice left wing-back for the next five years. It's a rare and refreshing thing to see a left-back like Monreal.