Greetings readers, its time again for the curious ‘case of’ and this time it is Nacho Monreal’s moment of truth. The Spaniard signed from Malaga in 2013 and never looked back since. As you well know, I have criticised him in the past for his performances but mainly when played out of position by his eccentric manager. As a left back he has had more good days than off days but I still maintain that stopping crosses and failure to score more when attacking has cost him the opportunity of being rated as one of the very best in his position. Having been played as an emergency centre back in previous campaigns and with Arsenal’s alteration to a back three, Nacho Monreal has been given another opportunity to excel in the new position at the latter stages of his career. At 31, one can estimate another three to four years at the top level, bar any injuries or loss of form. Once again, either by stroke of genius or pure dumb luck, Arsene Wenger has successfully converted NM from a full back to a left sided defender.
Now lets look at his Statistics shall we:
(Data courtesy of EA Sports); reveal that
• Monreal is actually leading the Premier League when it comes to interceptions this season, managing 22 – an average of just over 3 per game. Monreal has exclusively operated as a centre-back this season. He’s started all 7 Premier League games in a central role, as well as once in the Europa League.
• Burnley’s Steven Defour and Everton’s Morgan Schneiderlin each have 21 interceptions to their names, while Huddersfield’s Christopher Schindler and Liverpool’s Joel Matip each have 19.
• Similarly, only two players in the division – the above-mentioned Schindler (26) and West Ham veteran defender Pablo Zabaleta (22) – have attempted more tackles than Monreal’s 19 so far.
But not only has the Spaniard statistically been among the top defenders in terms of actual defensive work, he’s at or near the top of key standings when you also factor in that passing percentage, something which has become a crucial part of modern football.
• As far as his passing ranking among other defenders is concerned, Monreal trails only to the Spurs duo Jan Vertonghen (247) and Eric Dier (225) for the season as a whole when it comes to passes completed in the opposition half – Monreal has managed 219 so far. Overall, he has completed 454 passes, which is more than Dier (390) and only 27 less than Vertonghen.
• NM is competing with the ‘Big Boys’, when it comes to passing accuracy in the opposition half. He is averaging a success rate of 91% in such circumstances, lower only than Manchester City’s John Stones (94%) and, somewhat surprisingly, Arthur Masuaku of West Ham (92%). (Once again,Data Courtesy of EA SPORTS).
So the case for the Arsenal full/centre back is open and over to you the readers for debate, analysis and intellectual discourse on how we think of the player going forward. Does he have what it takes to sustain this good start and continue till the end of the season. He is a three times FA cup winner, three times Community Shield holder for Arsenal. Can he add other accolades to his existing commendations? Farther Time will undoubtedly reveal all in due time.
PS: How is the Curious Case of Theo Walcott going?