Nacho Monreal

A 26 year-old , left-back, Spanish International set to join Arsenal from Malaga for £8.5m.

Monreal is thought to have agreed a £55k per week deal.

A player who grew up playing full-back and has been moulded in that with his defensive duties a key part of his game, unlike many full-backs in La Liga who are more wing-backs or wingers converted to full-backs.

He comes with pace but also height, strength, and good old-fashioned defensive determination.

His stats are very good some of the notable ones are as follows:

Passing Accuracy – 85.3%

Passing Accuracy in opp. half – 79.9%

Duels Won – 57.9%

Aerial Duels Won – 65.6%

Nacho has attracted much attention, with Barcelona and Real Madrid having kept tabs on him too. He’s been a prominent part of a side that achieved Champions League football, and got them through to the knock-out rounds, winning their group.

However this does mean he will be ineligible to play in the Champions League for us, with Gibbs unlikely to be back for the first leg at home to Bayern Munich.

Furthermore, is he enough to solve our defensive frailties? Personally I feel our right-side of defensive is weaker than left, with Sagna and Mertesacker having a torrid time at the moment, while Vermaelen has stepped it up and Gibbs has done pretty well. Santos though, is completely unreliable and definitely a strong contender for one of Arsenal’s worst left-backs.

Wenger on Nacho Monreal – “We are delighted that Nacho Monreal has agreed to join us. We have been monitoring him for some time now and are really pleased that we’ve been able to agree this move today. Monreal is a strong left-sided defender with good experience at both club and international level. He is a technically gifted player, a good crosser in the final third and strong in the air. Monreal will add quality to our squad and of course, to our defensive unit. We all look forward to him playing for us.”

Wenger Press Conference Post Liverpool: Full

“I  believe that it was first of all a great football game, where both teams went really for it and you can see it was top level overall of entertainment.

“We have tonight, honestly we could have lost the game, we could have won it as well by 3 or 4 goals difference and that shows that we have made many, many chances going forward. But we were nervous defensively and the 2 goals we have conceded today show that. We were nervous from the start, at the back, but overall we have shown great quality and tremendous spirit.”

“It was I think first of all, we were caught on counter attacks, we didn’t adjust very well, Liverpool were good going forward as well. But we didn’t give up big security tonight defensively I agree with that, but on the other hand when you see the spirit in the team and the quality going forward, you smell always that something can happen at any moment, you know when we combine like we do and in the second half we have put fantastic effort in. Overall we know what we can improve and we want to keep the positives that we’ve shown tonight in the game.”

Poor defensive starts, how can they be sorted? “Well I believe that recent history you speak about has an impact on the way we started the game tonight, and we have to get that out of our minds and focus on what we do well that is playing football, and focus on what we want to do in your position. All the rest I believe that the quality is there and we have to trust our quality and forget what happened in the past, because what happened in the past you could see tonight it played in our heads at the start of the game.”

Why are experienced defenders nervous? “Because they want to do well and they want to win games and these games have massive importance to them, and that’s why because they want to do so well.”

Positives from Theo’s performance, “I agree with you on that, he is absolutely moving forward, and his attitude and determination, you see he is a man now when he plays football, and takes responsibility and creates always danger, and he played against a top full back today and that’s where you see the quality in the big games like that.”

Can Theo do it at International level? “I think so, I think he’s ready.”

Gibbs’ injury: “It is a thigh strain and that rules him out for the next three weeks. It is a blow for us.”

Will you get another left-back in? “I will see overnight what I can do. But of course it is a big blow at the moment because Gibbs was a very important player for us as well going forward, and in the game we want to play it is a shame he is out for the next three weeks.”

Why is the second half performance much improved on the first half? “There is not always a rational explanation on that, I believe with the way we play football many times we have to wait until the other teams drop a little bit to get complete domination of the game, and when you look at all our games, even Man City in the second half we had a lot of the ball with 10 men. The problem for us basically is not bad to go 0-0 into half time.”

On the squad. “This squad is top, top-level. And I think we have to learn to trust these players again and keep facing them. We have signed a bunch of young players, young English players, who have committed to the club for the next 4/5 years. I think there’s a lot to come out of this team but we have to trust them and keep facing them.”

It’s the defensive side that needs improving. “We will.”

Does Wenger expect any transfers on deadline day? “I cannot promise you that, we work on it, we asked an official extension of the transfer window for one week, maybe we’ll be capable to do that.

“Yeah [David Villa negotiations/deal is completely dead].”

On the players response to the draw: “They are frustrated because we haven’t won the game, but somewhere they can feel they have given everything so there’s a certain sense of feeling they’ve done their job. But you want to win football games, so of course they are frustrated.”

Drawing at Liverpool

It was a game that needed to be won. Three points were vital. But we only managed to get the one after a poor defensive display, especially early on, again. We were lucky in the end that Tottenham and Chelsea, both also drew, but this makes it all the more frustrating in some respects as we could have gone to gain on them, if we had won.

Liverpool played as well as they have done this season, and putting us under pressure early on seems the way to be the way to play against Arsenal, like a fashion, but who can blame our opponents when each of Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City have succeeded in doing this and ultimately leaving us with a mountain to climb. A 2-0 deficit every time.

It borders unexplainable. Wenger puts it down to a psychological ‘nervousness’, but they need to be mentally tougher as Wenger always proclaims them to be. These are fully grown men, international footballers, being paid tens of thousands a week. Everyone gets nervous, but why is it Arsenal that seems to be the only team with a consistent problem in the same area. One thing is for sure. Fourth place will quickly slip away if we continue to defend in that manner.

The defensive frailties were catastrophically exposed from offset. Bacary Sagna slipping over, adding to his list of mistakes that lead to goals. But he wasn’t single-handedly to blame. Vermaelen’s attempt at a clearance was abysmal. Szczesny made a good save, but with four or five defenders you expect the ball to be cleared. It comes to Suarez after Ramsey dances around it, and he inevitably takes the shot. Mertesacker is one of the biggest players around, he has 85 caps for Germany and is internationally acclaimed. Is it just something about Arsenal and defenders? Per jumps and turns his back, like a schoolboy. All I can call it really is pathetic. It takes a deflection off of Per and goes in. 1-0 to the visitors.

It was by no means all Arsenal. But Liverpool were unworthy leaders at half-time. We had a number of opportunities, most notably Theo Walcott with a great chance on the half-volley a minute or so after Liverpool scored their first. However, Liverpool defended deep, and did it well. We were limited to passing around the box for a lot of the first half and were then subjected to their counter-attack which produced a goal line clearance from Podolski, and a shot from Henderson in an attempt to lob Szczesny who had to come off his line.

G0ing into the second half we looked more positive, it seemed that we could turn things around. However, the circus were in town in the defence and Mertesacker and Santos were put in Henderson’s pocket as he dribbled through them. His first shot was saved but bounced back to him and he put it away with ease. It was 2-0 and the fans were absolutely furious, believe me.

As luck should have it, the attacking players were having a great game despite the lack of goals. They reaped the rewards eventually with a Giroud header, and a great striker from Theo Walcott, both coming in a matter of minutes to make it 2-2. Liverpool’s resistance had yielded enough for us to get these goals, which were deserved, but it’s in these games you need a solid defence so the goals count for more. It’s not as easy as playing West Ham or Newcastle, where we will score many in the ‘we will out score you’ philosophy.

Despite our pressure, Liverpool held out for 2-2. Giroud should have scored at least one if not two. The most obvious chance was a one-two with Podolski but it was deflected marginally and got lost in his feet. The second, a header which he should have done better to get on target.

Liverpool had a few opportunities too. Santos, with another dreadful game, with a minute to go plays it to a Liverpool player in our half and thanks to a great save from Szczesny again he was let off the hook. I think he owes Szczesny a beer.

It will do nothing to appease the fans though, and with Gibbs out for 3 weeks as the original forecast, I hope dearly that Wenger plays Vermaelen at left-back or even buys/loans someone. Just not Santos, anyone but him. When we play Bayern, Robben, Ribery, if  fit, will tear him to pieces every time, every minute.

Priorities for deadline day have to be defensive-wise. There’s no good signing Villa, as much as I’d love him, with the defensive issues that are occurring. I personally am not satisfied with Sagna this season, nor with Mertesacker and obviously Santos especially without Gibbo. A defensive midfielder to hold things steady back there is needed too, but it all depends how confident Wenger is. Hopefully he isn’t cocky because he has good record of things just working out in the end but this year has to be the toughest of them all.

 

Wenger Pre-Liverpool Press Conference

Everything Wenger said in his Press Conference before the Liverpool game. If some bits don’t make complete sense, well that’s because Arsene said it and these are his exact expressions.

“The players who were rested [at Brighton] are all available. We have Vermaelen who was not in the squad, who is back. Arteta, Coquelin, are still out.”

On Brighton – “We played a quality side, and we prepared ourselves to deal with it. First half we had some problems, but in the second half I think we controlled well the game and overall we did what we wanted to do. We played certainly against one of the better sides in this round of the FA Cup, and Brighton for me has a chance to come up to the Premier League.

Effect on Liverpool of being knocked out – “You don’t know how teams respond, it’s a shock of course when you go out, but we just look at ourselves to play well tomorrow and don’t look too much at how Liverpool will respond to that.

When asked about Liverpool’s attacking threat, Wenger said “They have bought Sturridge, they have Suarez of course, who has scored 16/40 goals they’ve scored so he’s a massive influence in their efficiency, and Sterling is for me a young, promising striker who has an England future certainly”

With regards to David Beckham, “Yeah [he is training here], he’s asked to come here and to work on his fitness he has not done anything for a long, long time and he comes here to try to be fit again.

Question on how it came about, the simple answer was “He called me.”

No transfer will happen though, however. “Yes, purely for fitness, there’s no speculation about signing or anything.

“No [there’s nothing he can do to help us], I believe that he is come here purely on fitness purpose”

What Wenger gets out of Beckham training, “Nothing, questions in the press conference, and to help somebody who I think deserves, when he wants, we are open for people who behave well when they come here, and who have made great service for English football of course you know we always try to help.”

Next up, transfers.

“When we sign somebody we will inform you.

“Yes [I am trying to sign somebody], I’ve said that many times.

“No [the David Villa rumour] doesn’t go away, but Barcelona doesn’t want to sell David Villa, they have made it very, very clear.

“You respect the desire if I say that somebody’s not for transfer, I expect the other clubs to not to try and buy him.

“In January it’s very difficult to find players who strengthen your team when you are in our position, yes.”

Arsene’s favourite transfer deadline day?

“I have many, many, but most of the time was a lot of tension on the day because you don’t know if you will manage to do it, but maybe the most important one was last year when we bought 5 players in 2 days, we had some timing where we just midnight, 5 past 12, of course there was a lot of tension there.”

Back to the Liverpool game, again asked on how he thinks Liverpool will respond, Wenger responds:

“[It] Depends on the teams, it’s always a big disappointment to go out of the FA Cup but you don’t speculate because you never know what exactly kind of response you get. I think what is important for us is to be us at our best and cope with what Liverpool we offer us.”

Do Brendan Rodger’s young players have something to prove after being criticised?  “Certainly yes but, there again its difficult to imagine I think if he’s not happy with the younger players they will not play on Wednesday.”

On his dealings with the board at this time.

“I have mainly more dealings with our scouts, and more contacts with our scouts, and after that of course, if something special happens first of all we are linked nearly on a daily basis with Ivan Gazidis and he makes the link with the board.”

I believe that [Theo signing] was very important for us yes, as it gives two messages out, the first is that we want to keep our best players and are capable to do it, and secondly, offensively we are not in a position where we have absolutely to be desperate to buy anybody as Theo can play through the middle and down the flanks.”

Playing Liverpool: “It is very important for us of course, it’s a very important game for us, and the run that starts now you know, I said after the Chelsea game we cannot afford to drop points.”

“No [there’s no room for negotiation with David Villa]”

Has Wenger had to change his targets? “I didn’t say that David Villa was our target.”

“No [I don’t see bringing no one in as a problem]”

“[Because] I think what is important is you bring in players who can strengthen your team, or you do nothing and you’re strong enough to do nothing, and that is what is important for us.

“Anyone for me means just exactly what is today the modern game has become.

“In numbers we have enough, we have plenty of quality strikers.”

Is it a shame Suarez’s quality is clouded by the other side of him? – “Yes he’s a great player who would deny that.”

Are people like this hard to work with? “You know really people when you work everyday on a daily basis with them, I don’t know is he hard to manage or not, is he a great football player, I say yes.

“Yes [I have a view on politics and sport mixing].”

“There’s two things that the government wants clear rules for football to be managed, I agree completely that politics rule football I am not for it. Football is for me a company, like any company who is in entertainment and has to be managed in a clear way, I always defended that, but apart from that the government has a view on that and how it has to be managed and how the sustainability of the club is of course supported, that’s very important, but apart from that it has to be managed on an independent way. I think personally, that the real pride of a football club is to be independent and not rely on anybody from outside. It is like for you, like for me, the real pride is to produce your life with the quality of your work and your dedication, and that’s how a football club should be managed.”

David Villa to Arsenal?

Reports are suggesting that Spain’s all time top goalscorer could make the switch to the Emirates, this transfer window. (sources – ‘Sky Sports Transfer Centre’ and ‘goal.com’)

Tonight the David Villa rumours have reignited, but this time it seems they may be more than rumours. Arsenal representatives have arrived in Barcelona to attempt to negotiate a deal for Villa, who is rumoured to want to leave.

The fact this same rumour is repeating itself, not going away, suggests to me there is some truth behind it. It can often be the case, despite any denial from the clubs or managers, that rumours that are consistent have some truth in them. I have no doubt that Arsenal have enquired about Villa at the very least, and I am fairly optimistic we are ‘trying’ to sign him. Whether this will come to fruition is of course, an entirely different matter.

Wenger however, has already said during this window that you get the players cheaper at the end of the window. That is why “90% of deals are done in the last 48 hours”. Well this is very believable from a man who will never pay over the odds for anyone, especially when it is very possible to get them cheaper.

Villa, although 31, is a very good player still, his time at Barcelona has been hampered by injuries. Having Messi to contend with isn’t the easiest of situations either.

Some fans believe he doesn’t improve on the quality we currently have. Well Wenger himself said in his press conference Saturday evening that he was looking to add “numbers” not “quality”, but the addition of Villa adds quality in numbers, in my opinion. Given the opportunity to put a run of games together he could prove to be very successful, and of course his Champions League and International experience could be vital when we face Bayern Munich.

Personally, I feel he will be a lot more clinical than Giroud, who full credit to him, has improved enormously since joining. With our FA Cup run and Champions League games coming up, along with a battle to get back to the top 4, we need squad depth. Hopefully with this we will be able to compete for the FA Cup and progress in the Champions League at least, rather than falling out of both because we are single-mindedly focused on 4th place; as in previous years.

Rumour has it we will offer something in the range of £13m, and match his £110,000 a week wage. But at 31 I’m unsure how long any contract would be agreed to last.

Also, although Barcelona will probably be okay with letting him go for a decent fee, considering his age, injury issues, wage bill, contract shortening and the fact they don’t really need him, there is NO guarantee we will actually get him.

I am as hopeful as everyone else that will succeed in buying him. It will be one of Wenger’s biggest ‘known’ signings to do date, and shows some intent which I like to see as it’s been a while. But we have to be realistic, there is also a big chance it won’t happen and our record at getting these deals done isn’t great. Let’s hope no one else comes in for him, and that he wants Arsenal.

Finally, I wouldn’t expect to see any deal go through until Wednesday evening at the earliest if not Thursday. If we don’t get him, we won’t get any other striker.