Defensive display vs Southampton highlighted Monreal’s transformation at Arsenal

When Nacho Monreal arrived at Arsenal in January 2013, he was an attacking full-back, to the extent that he found the net just six games into his Arsenal career following a cute one-two with Olivier Giroud down the left wing.

But after losing his place in the starting XI to Kieran Gibbs and inevitably succumbing to age, Monreal has steadily modified his game from a defender always looking forward to a technically astute and balanced player with one eye always on keepingĀ things solid at the back.

He even lines up at centre-back these days in Arsenal’s 3-4-3 setup and last night’s superb performance against Southampton highlighted the 31-year-old’s transformation throughout his four-and-a-half years in north London.

Indeed, Monreal finished the match with the most interceptions and blocks of any Arsenal player, whilst weighing in with the second-most tackles, two clearances and three successful aerial duels. But far from being a limited defender, the Spaniard has continued to show his quality on the ball, producing the most touches and passes barring Arsenal’s midfielders.

Those returns are made all the more impressive by the fact Monreal was being fielded at left wing-back a few weeks ago, a role which saw him find the net against Manchester City in the Fa Cup semi-final, highlighting how he still possesses those natural attacking instincts but has modified his game to suit the Gunners’ needs.

If not a top-class player, certainly a top-class servant to Arsenal football club.