With Monreal the man of the moment, having just signed a new deal with the club, it seems churlish of me to talk about anything other than our Basque left back. Of course I am pleased and delighted that one of our most consistent performers of the season will be at the club with a few more years to come yet. But I also want to talk about what his Arsenal career should be showing Arsenal fans, when they come to dismiss so many players, on the basis of form. But I’ll come to that in a bit.
First of all, let’s congratulate a player who you’d have to say deserves the praise and cheer that many of us are giving, now that he’s signed a new agreement. He’s been brilliant for about 18 months and it’s his reward for his performances that he gets a long term deal at 29. Arsène was expectedly full of praise too. He seems like the perfect professional for somebody like Le Boss because he doesn’t seek out the limelight, he just gets on with his football, he also seems a really nice and modest guy. It’s lovely to see.
Two years ago he was a clear back up full back, with Gibbs at first choice, but through his own endeavour he has wrestled the first choice place from the England international and barring injury you’d expect him to keep it until the end of the season.
It’s strange that he isn’t being recognised by Spain at the moment. I’m pretty sure he’s one of – if not the –best left back in the Premier League, so why does the Spanish national team boss not consider him?
I’ve also been impressed with him going forward. When he first arrived, I think he looked like the more cautious full back, a player who is more comfortable defending than operating as an auxiliary winger. With the pace of the Premier League and the quick movement of teams from front to back, you need full backs who can be part of attacking plays, which I thought might be one of his weaknesses. But this season – and large parts of last season to be fair – Monreal has shown that he is a very good overlapping full back. His distribution in the box isn’t bad either. Think about all of the times Sagna couldn’t put a good ball into the box having worked a good position. Nacho is miles better than Sagna was going forward.
It must be hard for Gibbs. He is a very good full back too, something touched on in Nacho’s interview, but whilst he must be frustrated at not playing he can use Monreal’s story as one of motivation. After all, Monreal was viewed by many as a busted flush, particularly after the 6-3 drubbing against City. Yet he had to hide his time and take his chance when it came to him. Monreal is not going to remain injury-free for the next two years, which means Gibbs will get his chance and when he does, he has to take it.
In the mean time, Gibbs needs to get his head down, doing exactly the opposite of what Debuchy has done by speaking to Lequipe about wanting to leave Arsenal. I have sympathy for Debuchy and his injuries, as well as his frustration because he doesn’t want to miss out on the summers Euros, but as the Arseblogger said in his Monday Podcast, it seems like the Euro’s are more important to him, than Arsenal’s attempt at a title surge. The contrast between Monreal and Debuchy could not be more vast.
But back to my slight gripe in relation to Monreal that I mentioned above, and it lies with some Arsenal fans, I’m afraid. Nacho is a perfect case study for what you get when a player is given a run of games. He has shown that he is a very good left back with consecutive matches under his belt. There have been too many players who have been dismissed as ‘useless’ on the basis of a few performances, Debuchy this season being one, actually. He hasn’t been great when asked to come in to the team, but he’s been given sporadic run outs in the team, so what do people expect? I suspect, had Bellerin been given a Coquelin-style injury that kept him out for three months in the season, after a few games as a regular starter he’d have been more like the Debuchy we saw when he signed.
It’s not just Debuchy though. In this age of every player needing to be brilliant at all times, we’ve seen other recent cases. Jenkinson has shown how good he is at full back on loan at West Ham, whilst Özil has had some very obvious detractors until the last six months or so, which seems crazy when you look at his outputs this season. Part of it is fuelled by the media and their need to click bait “nicking a living” headlines, but I do feel as though as a fanbase we too have to take some responsibility, of which I am just as culpable. I’ve dismissed Joel Campbell a few times this season already, yet he is showing that he is a potential star in the making for us, if he can continue his upward trajectory.
I guess the moral of this story is that patience with players really is a virtue. They’re not robots. Unlike Football Manager you won’t sign them and get them playing seven out of 10 each week and from the first moment they set foot on the clubs training ground. When we see Elneny for the first time, we will all need to remember that, which I include myself in as well by the way.
So that’s that for today. Nacho is tied down, we’re halfway through the week and the Chelski game looks on the horizon, so I’ll see you in the morrow.