Thursday, June 1, 2023

Arsenal’s Unsung Hero: A Tale Of Underappreciated Astuteness

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Prasoon Sur
Prasoon is a law student who lives in the North East of India. Wildly innovative, football is more than a passion for him.

Suspicious eyes greeted Arsenal’s €10 million deadline day signing in the winter transfer window of 2013 and as one might expect, the animosity of the Premier League didn’t go too well with the then newcomer Nacho Monreal, who found it difficult to acclimatise after the move from Málaga. The forgettable developing period in the Arsenal shirt comprised of his annihilation by the opponents, severe exposure of his limitations and repeated struggles to find his feet in the league.

Constant criticism hovered over him from the onset, doubts lingered over his calibre and the impatient fans didn’t shy away from calling for the Spaniard’s head more often than not. The initiation of revival occurred from the early days of the 2014-15 campaign. Who would have thought that the then Kieran Gibbs’ deputy would one day turn out to be one of the most trusted personnel under Arsène Wenger?

Positive and resilient outings as the central defender ensured that Monsieur Wenger could bolden Monreal’s inclusion on the left back slot. It is no secret that full backs play a vehement role in Wenger’s tactical nous. The contribution from the full backs and a perfect balance between attack and defence from the same is what the Frenchman advocates and frankly, the 30-year-old has been implementing it exceptionally well for the Gunners.

Not being heavily gifted with physicality or speed, it is his subtleness, ability to read the game, a blend of concentration and focus and impeccable positional sense that has made him an irreplaceable element in Le Professeur’s starting lineup. What is special about the pair of Spanish internationals at Arsenal is the perfect balance of the offensive surge of Héctor Bellerín and the diligence and solidity of Monreal, with the latter being thoroughly alert when the opponents come steaming in with all guns blazing.

His decision-making capabilities, making sharp tackles and interceptions and the knack to clear the ball to make him a perfect and wanted commodity at the red half of North London.

As a fullback, he invites the midfielders up the pitch while doing his duty of running with the ball on the left, takes calculated passes and refrains from making errors that could concede possession. All of the time, he provides his own self as an option on the wings when Arsenal try to flatter with their attacking arsenal and make no mistake, he tracks back with sheer perfection and precision.

In a team that boasts having the world class talents in the likes of Mesut Özil, Alexis Sánchez and Laurent Koscielny to name a few, the aura that generates from Nacho Monreal is undoubtedly an underappreciated element. From 37 appearances last season, Monreal created 28 chances, made 56 successful tackles and 106 interceptions and these statistics reflect upon the notion that Monreal is exactly the kind of a fullback that Arsenal adore.

Just 1 yellow card last season, further, is a telling stat of the discipline he commands at the back. Making silly, unnecessary and rash tackles aren’t something we could blame Monreal with. Owing to the colossal tale of Arsenal’s ruthlessness up front, the efforts and class the former Málaga man offers at the back and also while catering to the offensive needs go unnoticed most of the time. Despite being short in receiving the plaudits he deserves, this unsung hero of Arsenal shall continue to march on, proud and unafraid.

Statistics Credits: Squawka

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