Wenger backing for Monreal
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels Spain international Nacho Monreal will soon develop into as potent an attacking threat down the flank as he is reliable at the back.
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18. Nacho Monreal
The 27-year-old arrived at the Emirates Stadium on January transfer deadline day in an £8.5million deal from Malaga, which so far looks a more than sound investment.
The defender, standing in for injured England left-back Kieran Gibbs, produced solid displays in his first taste of Barclays Premier League action against Stoke and at Sunderland, before showing glimpses of his forward ability when his run and cross set up a late winner for Santi Cazorla against Aston Villa.
Wenger is confident with time, Monreal will provide another outlet to the Gunners' many attacking options.
"The first thing you want from your defenders is to defend well, so we cannot reproach him for that. You will see the other aspects of his game more when his confidence has settled," Wenger said in the March edition of the official Arsenal magazine.
"He is good in the air for a guy of his size, has a quick leap and has looked good.
"Monreal is very strong in other areas too, his crosses for example, and his forward play you will see a bit later.
"It happened with Kieran Gibbs too, the more confident he became the more efficient he was going forward.
"It can take a bit if time to express that side."
Wenger continued: "There is no better culture shock than to play against Stoke and Sunderland.
"He has not said a word to me about it, but he has spoken with the other players and he has seen all about the passion and commitment of the English game. You can say Nacho Monreal passed that test."
Gibbs has been sidelined with a thigh injury picked up in the 2-2 draw against Liverpool on January 30 - which gave Arsenal little time to hasten a move for Monreal.
Wenger had been on the Spaniard's case "for a long time", and was happy to have landed "one of our big targets".
The Arsenal manager admits the January window was a testing period for the club, who came under criticism for not spending big despite obvious shortcomings on the pitch.
"We had a difficult first six months of the season, because we were trying to extend the contracts of all the British players. That demanded a lot of work and then we had to deal with the (Theo) Walcott situation as well during January," Wenger said.
"So personally I am relieved because we dealt with the situation and we extended all of our players (contracts), kept Walcott and bought Monreal, of course you can always do better but overall I feel the club has dealt with the situation we faced in a satisfactory way."
Failing to add more options, however, means Wenger's faith in the current group is again on the line heading into the defining period of what has been another frustrating campaign.
Yet despite their trophy ambitions seemingly over once again after being handed a European masterclass by Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 clash at the Emirates Stadium which followed crashing out of the FA Cup at home to npower Championship side Blackburn, there could yet be a positive end to the season.
Arsenal head to north London rivals Tottenham on Sunday just two points off fourth-placed Chelsea, with Andre Villas-Boas' men moving four ahead after Gareth Bale's injury-time winner at West Ham on Monday night.
Wenger's men at least have some momentum in the Premier League, with three successive victories in a five-match unbeaten run.
Right-back Bacary Sagna missed the win over Villa with a knee problem, but could be fit to face Spurs - and so the man tasked with shackling Bale.
Arsenal, meanwhile, have moved their Premier League game against sixth-placed Everton which was set for March 9 after the Toffees progressed to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with last night's victory over Oldham.
The game will now take place on Tuesday, April 16 or 24 hours later, should Everton go on to reach the semi-finals at Wembley.