January 31st 2013 Arsenal fans were clamouring for a signing. He may not have been who everyone was asking for, but Nacho Monreal was Arsenal’s deadline day signing. The Spaniard came to replace the man himself, Andre Santos, after he proved he wasn’t good enough for Arsenal. He may not have been a glamorous signing, but the Spaniard was a necessary signing.
When he first came in, the Spaniard looked solid if unimpressive filling in when Kieran Gibbs was injured. 2013-2014 was not such a great season for Nacho as he was often exposed by quick wingers and big teams. The former Malaga man had a really tough time of it and it looked like he had lost his battle for the left back position to Gibbs. Then this season he had a spell at centerback after the gunners were short there with Laurent Koscielny injured. That spell seems to have helped him because, since the turn of the year, Monreal has been an absolute revelation for the gunners.
Monreal has really had a breakthrough season. Many have attributed his improvement to his spell at centerback earlier in the season. His reading of the game does seem to have improved, as reflected in his number of interceptions, as has his aerial ability, so there is definitely statistical evidence to suggest that has something to do with it. Whatever the reason, his improvement has been obvious. His ability to defend on the front foot and cut out opponents attacks early has been very helpful for the gunners, as also, his astute defensive positioning has allowed the more creative Arsenal players freedom to go forward.
Monreal has proved to be one of the best defensive left backs in the league this season. His improvement has moved him near the top of the pile of Premier League left backs. His ability in the air has been particularly impressive. He has improved massively in that department and, particularly, with the departure of Bacary Sagna and the injuries to Mathieu Debuchy, has been hugely important for Arsenal. He has locked down the starting left back spot which has allowed Arsenal to have a more settled defense, and this is one of the contributing factors to their improvement in defense.
His improvement has been huge and quite unexpected. He’s helped the team become much more settled and solid. After not having a great time in the first 18 months of his Arsenal career, it looks like Nacho has finally settled in and pushed on. He’s gone from a back up that no one wanted to start as one of the first names on the team sheet. Things can always change, but for the time being he is winning the battle for starting Arsenal left back with Kieran Gibbs, and has put down a marker that he is one of the best defensive full backs in the league.