Mr Reliable: Nacho Monreal

That 2015 FA Cup quarterfinal goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford?

That recent leveller at Goodison Park to spark a crushing 5-2 comeback?

That last gasp goal line clearance against West Brom at The Emirates?

That 2017 FA Cup semi-final equaliser against Manchester City?

What has impressed you the most about Nacho Monreal? Mr Reliable of late and a sure candidate for club captain next year, Nacho Monreal has been a mainstay in the starting XI over recent years, and has drastically improved his concentration and positional discipline to become an incredibly important element of this Arsenal team.

Arriving on deadline day in January 2013 for a mere £8.3 million, Monreal was originally signed as an understudy and backup to the developing Kieran Gibbs. Fast forward nearly five years, Gibbs has been moved on and Monreal is ever the consistent performer, week in week out. At LB or CB in a four and more recently at LWB or LCB in a three, Nacho has displayed his talents to the highest level, often thrust in as leader in a makeshift defence but has managed to, more importantly, establish a solid looking left side relationship with Sead Kolasinac.

Monreal goes about his job quietly, never looking for the limelight. A workhorse behind the scenes and never one for ill discipline, he is now one of the first names on the team sheet and is almost irreplaceable. This season alone his key contributions so far have been astounding; that goal line clearance against West Brom at 0-0 and that equalising goal at Goodison to spark a thumping 5-2 win, to name a few.

It is no consequence that Monreal has recently been recalled to the Spanish national team and is featuring regularly enough to make back-to-back squads, twice. Marcos Alonso of Chelsea, a PL champion, has never featured for Spain…not even a call up. Yes, Jordi Alba is the first choice at LB or LWB for Spain but Monreal is knocking on his door and has forged daylight between himself and any third choice options at Spain’s disposal. His success is clearly being noticed, and his positional flexibility and experience looks to be as useful to Spain as it does to Arsenal.

Having grown in maturity and experience since that debut against Stoke in February 2013, Nacho has become a wise head in the Arsenal squad. Part of the tight-knit defensive group, he will always be there to mop up, and by sticking to the basics, usually delivers. Defensively he has become a rock and is now thriving at LCB in the current 3-4-3 formation. Even courteous even to move from #17 to #18 to accommodate Alexis Sanchez in 2014, he is a gent on and off the pitch but is sufficiently tactile to do the basics well and get his job done professionally. Now backed by a long-term deal signed before his 30th birthday, Arsenal fans should expect to see more of Monreal and his unprecedented teamwork and commitment. Whilst he is ever dependable, he is still improving as a defender through positional fluidity and good awareness for anticipation and cover.

Here’s to Nacho Monreal…the quiet boss and Wenger’s Mr Reliable that goes about his job to the highest of standards with very little fuss. Never stealing the limelight, Monreal’s importance to the team is up with absolutely anyone in this current Arsenal squad. His impact is not truly noticed or acknowledged until he’s not there…the sign of a great professional. Wenger, nor us fans, should not take him for granted. No Monreal and the defence is usually worse off.

Craig Bennett

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