Nacho Monreal is no panic purchase for Arsenal
When English fans look on in awe at Spanish academies, they normally imagine the likes of Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao and even Real Oviedo, which had a large slice in the development of Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla and Michu. Osasuna's youth system is not deemed fashionable, but the second full back in six months has arrived from Pamplona at one of England's big guns.
"Nacho" Monreal should give Arsenal some much-needed help at left back and should easily adjust to the league's physical play.
Left-back Ignacio "Nacho" Monreal Eraso – who left Osasuna in the summer of 2011 for 6 million euros for Malaga -- will be joining his former teammate Cesar Azpilicueta in London, though the two players won't be playing across the pitch from each other as they did three years ago. They will be playing on opposite sides of the city. Azpilicueta has nailed down a regular spot at Chelsea and his close friend will be looking to emulate him at rival Arsenal.
With the injury to Kieran Gibbs against Liverpool on Wednesday and Arsene Wenger's reluctance to use an increasingly shaky Andre Santos, a new left-sided defender quickly become the priority in the past 24 hours. But this isn't a panic purchase, despite the need for speed this week. There was a deal in principle for Monreal to arrive at the Emirates this summer, and he has already been taking English lessons in anticipation of the move. Gibbs' injury simply pushed things along.
The 26-year-old Monreal will fit seamlessly at Arsenal. He has an elegant blend of being a tough tackler and a technically gifted player on the ball. His positioning is excellent, while his decision-making has placed him firmly on the radar of Spain's "big two" for a number of years.
Good in the air, difficult to knock off the ball, with an eye for a killer ball – that sums up Monreal. If the bigwigs at the FA could conduct an experiment to blend the skillful brilliance of the world champions with a sturdy, typical Englishman, they would arrive at something resembling Nacho Monreal. His initiation at his hometown club has helped assist this; Sevilla manager Unai Emery once described Osasuna as "the closest thing to Stoke City in Spain" (before a Europa League match at the Britannia Stadium when Emery was in charge of Valencia).
Moving to Malaga, Monreal helped the team achieve their first ever Champions League qualification, featuring in two of their group matches this season. Recently appearing in the 3-2 victory over troubled Real Madrid, Monreal ’s last game for the Andalusians was perhaps his finest. The win against Real Mallorca by the same score line saw him score his first goal for the club, along with crossing for Chelsea transfer target Isco to net beforehand.
The defender has nine caps for La Seleccion, which is no mean feat. He is regarded as the alternative to Barcelona's Jordi Alba. Given time to adapt, which shouldn't be long, Monreal will comfortably make the left-back role his at Arsenal. He will give them defensive stability and offer an intelligent out-ball further up the field, and jokes about Santos will be firmly placed in the folder marked Nicklas Bendtner and Marouane Chamakh.
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