An unsung hero delivers once again – Nacho I salute you
A victory to remember, a night like few others for Arsenal, the night we stopped what seemed to be an unstoppable Bayern Munich machine and reminded the world that we can compete with the elite in Europe. Oh and it’s also worth mentioning that this victory reinforces the point that Arsene Wenger is still a tactical genius but to be honest most true Arsenal fans didn’t need reminding of that fact.
Yet as the fallout settles over what was an exceptional win, one man who will not draw the majority of headlines once again displayed a calm and above all consistent performance which may have gone slightly under the radar – that man is Nacho Monreal.
This was a player who at times during his Arsenal career has been subjected to his fair share of criticism and I include myself in that bracket. It seemed for a while as if Monreal in an Arsenal shirt was never going to work, I like many others was wrong. For a time we were right but now we are oh so wrong. Please forgive me Nacho.
Can someone please locate Thomas Muller?
Going into the game the majority of the talk was focused on the prolific striking duo of Thomas Muller and the unstoppable Polish force of late, Robert Lewandowski. As a pairing the Bayern forwards have recorded 27 goals in competitive fixtures for the German giants so far this season, Muller with 11 and Lewandowski with an unbelievable 16 at this early stage of the season.
Yet as the game drew to a conclusion fans who were not too familiar with the game could have been forgiven for thinking that the statistics surrounding the two were hearsay – because Arsenal as a defensive unit marshalled them that well.
Muller for almost the entirety of the game played out on the right flank so it was Monreal’s task to keep tabs on the illusive German trying to prevent him from making the runs from nowhere that we have become familiar with.
However, despite Bayern posing a huge threat throughout the majority of the match with their intricate midfield play and Douglas Costa displaying glimpses of outrageous skill, Muller out on the right hardly got a sniff.
Every time the ball was elegantly swept out to the right flank to the boots of the lanky German Monreal was right there to disrupt his rhythm and track the player with possibly the best off the ball movement in the world.
To completely nullify a player of Muller’s ability is testimony to just how important our Spanish left back has become to our side, he sacrifices the majority of his offensive play in order to protect the rest of the back four. It is an unselfish trait which I don’t think is praised enough and in truth was what inspired me to write this piece.
In the build up to this week’s rather dull Monday night football Gary Neville was discussing how sometimes full backs have to accept that they will spend the majority of the game defending in order to benefit the team. I believe Glen Johnson facing up to the tricky feet of Jefferson Montero was the subject of his point.
This is exactly what Monreal did for 90 minutes, committing himself to one of the hardest tasks in world football in order for his team to benefit, and guess what? We really did benefit. For me too much emphasis is placed these days on how full backs can cope defensively but when you have one who can produce a defensive performance of that calibre they can be the difference between winning and losing.
A crucial player in a brilliant defensive unit
Of course Monreal is not the only one whom performed to such a high defensive standard, he is one of the cogs in what is becoming one of Wenger’s finest defensive creations in years.
Despite Bellerin having a rather torrid evening at times due to the mesmeric dribbling of the dynamic Douglas Costa the young Spaniard still put in a great defensive effort and his boundless energy is what helped us see off the game in the dying minutes.
As for Koscielny it is hardly something new from who I believe is the finest central defender in the Premier League to marshal a world class player. Well it was sort of a team effort from him and Cech to thwart Lewandowski’s best efforts throughout the game and the end result was another game without a goal from the Pole – rhyme not intended by the way.
Whilst were on the subject of Cech he seems like a great piece of business doesn’t he? Would like to thank Chelsea for that one. The Czech shot stopper was in impervious form as he palmed away everything the Bayern players could throw at him with one particular save against Lewandowski just before our first goal the pick of the bunch.
Mertesacker played his part too although in my humble opinion I believe Gabriel has rightfully usurped the BFG with his recent performances, but Per as back up is a rather good option in my opinion.
However, it is the regular unsung work of Mr. consistent Monreal for me has been the turning point in the fortunes of Arsenal’s back line. Too often was Gibbs exposed because of his readiness to bomb down the other end of the pitch but now we have someone who places defence as his highest priority, something we as a team crave.
A team with as many creative midfield technicians and forward thinking players as we have in our first team demands players who bring defensive stability and a protective shield to allow them to thrive. In Nacho we have one of the best currently plying their trade in this crazy world of football and I for one would like to salute his efforts and thank the footballing gods that he is ours.
I bet Alexis Sanchez is thankful he’s there more than anyone.