Post-Stoke Ramblings and More on Monreal
When the odds were firmly stacked against the Super Eagles of Nigeria, they shocked the football world by ousting the tournament favorites, Ivory Coast. Emmanuel Emenike sent in an unstoppable piledriver to but his team ahead but Chieck Tiote equalized early in the second half for the Ivorians.
When Ivory Coast thought that they were going to run away with the contest, Sunday said MBA!!!
It was truly another great weekend of Premier League action as various teams strutted their stuffs yet again in England’s elite competition.
Manchester United edged closer to their 20th Premier League crown through Wayne Rooney’s individual brilliance against Fulham. While everyone continues to annoyingly sing van Persie’s tunes, Shrek has been phenomenal for them as well.
In the blue half of Manchester, Roberto Mancini’s petro-goons didn’t do enough to put pressure on the league leaders as they dropped points at home to Anfield. Steven Gerrard’s belter was a goal worthy of winning any contest but Pepe Reina’s stupidity was on show as Kun Aguero did really well to score from a somewhat impossible angle.
The battle for the other Champions League positions intensified as Chelsea’s malaise continued with a loss to the Francophone Newcastle, Everton were lucky to share the spoils with Aston Villa and Tottenham’s Chimpanzee was the difference between a point and three.
After week 25, it’s “as you were” in the top as Arsenal remain in sixth place after the well-deserved 1-0 victory over Stoke. The victory helped Arsene Wenger’s men to close the gap on the teams above them and as we all know, the Gunners are running out of games so they have to make everyone count.
Unlike in recent times, the defending was better and Arsenal’s first clean sheet in six Premier League games was highly welcome. Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny were relatively untroubled by an isolated Peter Crouch but the team defended some scary throw-ins from Shotton.
While Arsenal’s defense flourished, the attack was on song and it’s fair to say that the 1-0 scoreline was flattering to Stoke. Asmir Begovic turned on the style to make some top drawer saves but none can be compared to his spectacular save from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first timed effort after receiving an inch-perfect pass from Jack Wilshere.
Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud threatened the Stoke back line as well, and it was heartwarming to see Walcott giving Andy Wilkinson a torrid time. It took a Wilkinson tackle on Walcott to create the goalscoring opportunity on the edge of the area and Lukas Podolski took the chance clinically, taking his tally for the season to one dozen.
The return of Mikel Arteta was timely, and he worked his arse off in midfield alongside Wilshere and Abou Diaby. For the first time in a long while, Arsenal excelled on the pitch without Santi Cazorla’s magic but when the going got tough, Wenger summoned his midfield conjurer and he almost had a hand in what would have been the match clincher if his shot was a few inches lower.
There was a player that was cheered every time he got the ball unlike Ryan Shawcross that was rightly booed when he was close to the ball as well. This player inherited the jersey vacated by Alex Song and after having just one training session with his new club, he was sent straight into battle against Stoke City.
In his role as at the left back position, Nacho Monreal put up a great outing in his baptism of fire against Stoke. I really enjoyed that moment when he clashed heads with Jon Walters and it was the Stoke forward that came second best, causing the Stoke physios to wrap his big head with a bandage.
Monreal was very disciplined in his debut with the Gunners and he balanced his attacking and defensive play superbly. While doing a relatively efficient job at the back, he showed off his attacking prowess when he connected well with Wilshere before swinging in a cross towards Giroud’s path but the Stoke rearguard did their bit to quell the attack.
After the game, Arsene Wenger was pleased with his new recruit’s performance (via Sky Sports),
“Nacho Monreal had a good start for a player who just arrived yesterday and is in the team.
“He did not have time to think about it, but he got stronger and stronger during the game.
“There is no better culture shock than Stoke when you come from Spain! They had a very physical game and I think he dealt well with it.”
Wenger also stated that his team has improved in their physicality and he gave his reasons why he signed Monreal. The boss openly stated that Gibbs untimely injury forced his hand and he signed a player that he believed would be able to integrate easily into Arsenal’s style of play.
Monreal on the other hand, has stated that Arsenal’s style of play is beneficial to him (via Arsenal.com) and he intends to take some inspiration from his compatriot and former Malaga teammate, Santi Cazorla, that has been an instant hit since his arrival to the Emirates.
Monreal’s experience will come in handy in the coming weeks and Arsenal will hope that their new left back would get better and better with each passing game. This also means that it’s the end of the line for Andre Santos, that will probably be on the move in the summer.
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