It has been a largely positive week for Arsenal with wins in three competitions but it is a feature of the Premier League victory over Everton that caught my attention. It has been a case of finding the time to do some research and write something here.
Much has been said about Nacho Monreal, by Arsenal fans and independent writers and I would say virtually all of it has been positive. His form for The Gunners has won him his place in the Spanish squad back, no mean feat, and last I looked he has the highest passing completion of any defender in the league. In fact I think he has completed more passes than any defender in the Premier League. The fact that he is one of the first names on all our team sheet, in a position in which he had barely played before April, is testament to the man and his willingness to do what it takes for Arsenal and his manager. This is astonishing when many Arsenal supporters probably assumed he would be replacing Kieran Gibbs as left back/wingback understudy, with the summer arrival of Sead Kolasinac.
However both players are in the Arsenal Premier League side and are unlikely to be dislodged any time soon and whilst I am still to salivate or have had cause to, at the evolving relationship between Kolasinac and Alexis on the left, the interaction between the Bosnian and Monreal has changed in recent weeks. I thought I noticed it against Brighton and against Everton it was glaringly obvious. Whether by instruction from the coaching staff or by dint of a naturally developing on field understanding the Spaniard is foraying forward far more and every time he does Kolasinac is automatically slotting back in to cover his team mate.
Monreal, as Koscielny has often done, is striding out of defence with the ball when he has space to move into and indeed then even playing give and goes with midfielders and then joining the attack. When doing so his Bosnian colleague is dropping into the left central berth and covering. With both players adept in attack and capable in defence this unexpected interchange may well surprise opponents and add variation to our attacking play without necessarily weakenning us in defence. This is significant in a team renown for both fullbacks in the old formation bombing on simultaneously and leaving the two central defenders and holding midfielder stretched.
Just to back up the evidence of my eyes and of course Nacho’s superbly struck goal I thought I would look at Squawka.com which gives players individual game by game performances scores for defensive and offensive play. Interestingly Monreal’s attacking points score was between minus 2 and plus 2 for every Premier League but bolstered by 2 goals and increased attacking involvement in the final third his scores versus Brighton and Everton were 42 and 36 respectively.
I am not suggesting in any way that Arsenal should look to curtail Kolasinac’s attacking instincts which brought him eight assists and three goals for club and country last season. Particularly when goals and assists have certainly never been a feature of Monreal’s career at Arsenal. The Bosnian is the wingback and we all hope that his career will blossom at The Emirates for as long as we play 3421 but it is reassuring to know that when his more experienced Spanish colleague feels the time is right for him to initiate and stay involved in attacking play he knows to drop back in and cover.
Both players have played well for Arsenal at left centre back and left wingback in the past few months. Monreal is the superior defender and therefore they are in the correct roles but this subtle variation in our play, given their growing understanding is a feature that I hope will develop in the comings.
That said it could just be all in my imagination!