Nacho Monreal is fast becoming a fan favourite with at Arsenal, as one of the team’s most consistent performers.
Monreal moved to Arsenal back in January 2013, joining from Malaga. At the time, he was expected to compete with Kieran Gibbs for the left-back spot, and after an initial run of seven league games he started to see himself in and out of the team for the next season or two.
During that time the fans flipped back and forth on who they thought should be starting matches, but then Monreal seemed to throw a switch and suddenly became Mr. Consistent.
Those who only watch Nacho from time-to-time probably miss what makes the defender such a valuable asset to the side. It’s not that he’s pulling off unbelievable last-ditch tackles every week (although that goal-line clearance against West Brom was pretty memorable), he just does his job well, working consistently hard for the team.
As a result, despite fans knowing how much the defender is worth to Arsenal, you get pundits like Paul Merson saying: “Nacho Monreal wouldn’t get in if I was picking a combined XI against a bottom-half team.”
In October, Nacho has given his credentials a boost with a couple of goals, one against Brighton and another away at Everton. Whilst scoring is by no means a requirement for a defender, it’s still a bonus to have your centre-backs chipping in on occasion, and the fans love it when they do.
What’s more, those goals came at important times. One was to break the deadlock against Brighton, and the other was the equaliser against Everton. Getting on the scoresheet when the game is already won is a nice ego boost and a fun moment, but scoring when it really matters is another thing entirely.
Nacho has played every minute of Arsenal’s league campaign so far, as well as starting one match in the Europa League, which makes him unique as an Arsenal centre-back. Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers, Per Mertesacker and Rob Holding have all had to spend time on the sidelines for one reason or another, so it’s a good thing that the Gunners have been able to rely on Monreal staying fit and putting in solid defensive performances.
Last season the Spaniard made 35 starts in the league, and came off the bench once as well. He was also only substituted once during those 35 starts, meaning he completed the full 90 minutes on 34 occasions in the league.
In my opinion, any team could do with a defender who consistently maintains his level of performance whilst also having the physical fitness to play week-in, week-out. Add goals into the mix as well, and you’ve got yourself a winning combination.
Hopefully Nacho can keep all three of these things going as the season progresses.