at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London – Nacho Monreal made a winning start to his Arsenal career as Lukas Podolski handed Arsene Wenger’s men a slender 1-0 win over Stoke.
So how did the £8.3million deadline day signing from Malaga, who is tipped to replace Kieran Gibbs as the club’s first-choice left back, cope in Saturday’s Premier League debut?
Arsenal’s game is all about keeping the ball and Monreal will have no problem fitting into Arsene Wenger’s style. There was nothing extravagant about the Spaniard’s passing. He kept it simple, playing short passes inside to his centre backs or midfielders instead of attempting anything risky or penetrative.
His one-touch game is excellent and he looked comfortable in possession, but would you expect anything else from a Spain international?
Team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain said: “He is very good on the ball, comfortable, technically brilliant and a very good defender.”
The 26-year-old was sparing with his bursts forward, but when he did make a foray looked a real threat.
His pace over 10 to 20 yards had Stoke right back Ryan Shotton worried and his combination play with Jack Wilshere before putting in a cross that narrowly eluded Olivier Giroud will fill Arsenal fans with optimism.
Monreal will have more strenuous tests to come as Stoke struggled to carry a sustained attacking threat.
On the whole he was defensively sound. Competent in the air, particularly for a man under 6ft, and strong in the tackle, he knew when to clear or pick out a pass. Yet at times he allowed opponents too much space to cross.
Intelligent enough to keep things simple on his debut. It was clear he was playing within himself, but there were a couple of lapses of concentration. The first came towards the end of the first half when, under no pressure, he let a routine pass slip under his foot and the ball rolled out. This was repeated in the last five minutes, with his side trying to protect their slender advantage, but this time the error occurred on the edge of his own box.
Any fears Monreal would not be able to deal with the rough and tumble of the Premier League were dispelled during a bruising aerial duel with Jonathan Walters before half-time.
In going up for a header, the duo were involved in a nasty clash of heads. The Stoke forward needed treatment to a bloodied gash to his forehead.
Monreal remained on his feet, hardly flinching. “To see him win so many headers and hold his own was great to see,” added Oxlade-Chamberlain. – Daily Mail