Spanish defender Nacho Monreal has been one of the most criticized players this season for Arsenal. Thanks to our lack of defensive cover, the injuries to Laurent Koscielny and Mathieu Debuchy meant that Calum Chambers was forced to play as right back; and Wenger pressed Monreal into service as a makeshift centre back.
Sadly, the Spaniard’s games as a central defender coincided with a horrible streak of results for Arsenal. The losses to Chelsea, United and Swansea and the draws against Anderlecht and Hull City were some of the poorer games during this period. And even though it was probably not Monreal’s fault, he became one of the targets of frustration from the fans who were already riled up about the decision not to purchase an extra CB over the summer.
Speaking out against this however, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has gone on record to say that this treatment of Monreal is unfair and that he is one of the most underappreciated players at the club. The manager praised the Spaniard for his versatility and his ability to cope with the pressures of the new position and said that the player is quickly growing into his new role.
He is playing very well, he doesn’t get enough credit because against Manchester United, against Dortmund, he was in the top three for me with the quality of his performance.
I tested him (at centre-back) before the season started in the Emirates Cup tournament and I could see that he understands and reads the game well. It is the most important quality in this position.
Of course, after that there is the question mark ‘can he cope with the physicality of this job?’ because he does not have a major frame, but game by game, he becomes more aggressive because he understands the game, he can get in front of people and that is a very important quality.
Monreal is committed. He has an excellent mentality, excellent attitude, top class, I must say every day he is focused, doesn’t talk too much and does his job.
He wants to do well for the team. I think he enjoys it more and more and you could see against Dortmund that now he is starting to get into it.
Monreal has done his best in a difficult situation, nobody can deny that; going from second choice left back to first choice centre back is a tough prospect and requires drastic changes in mindset and tactics. Hopefully, now that Laurent Koscielny is full fit, we will see the more conventional pairing of Mertesacker and Koscielny in the centre, but no one should belittle Moreal or the work he has done for the club.