Arsenal: New Signing Monreal Will Be Key To Picking Up The Win Over Stoke

At long last - someone that isn't Andre Santos can play at left-back. With Gibbs out injured, deadline day arrival Monreal will be vital if Arsenal are to secure all three points against Stoke.
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At long last - someone that isn't Andre Santos can play at left-back. With Gibbs out injured, deadline day arrival Monreal will be vital if Arsenal are to secure all three points against Stoke.

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For a team that are the anti-thesis of Arsenal, making them a big challenge for the Gunners, Stoke City haven't enjoyed spectacular success when visiting Arsene Wenger's side - they've lost in their last 10 trips to Islington in all competitions.

In order to keep that run going, new signing Nacho Monreal could be key for Arsenal. Stoke are the kind of side who will stubbornly defend for 90 minutes, getting men behind the ball, as well as getting players forward to threaten sporadically. It's clear they're not a very technical side, and Arsenal will have most of the ball.

In games like those, when Arsenal most likely spend time camped in the opposition half, the full backs are key - they must keep the width and be able to cross the ball into a crowded penalty area, while the wide forwards drift inside to support the striker, ensuring that he's not isolated in a packed box.

People have highlighted many faults of Andre Santos lately, but one big one to Arsenal's game is that he prefers to saunter inside, as opposed to hugging the touchline. That can be useful in certain situations, but when playing alongside Lukas Podolski, a forward who thrives from cutting inside, it's never going to work particularly well.

Indeed, Arsene Wenger was seen signalling to Santos several times on the touchline to keep the width, and the Brazilian didn't seem to suit doing so. Nacho Monreal, Arsenal's new left-back from Malaga, is much more of a traditional full-back in that sense, and should keep Arsenal's width well.

As well as seeing how Podolski and Monreal link up and interchange, it'll be interesting to see how Cazorla connects with his old team-mate. He played with Monreal at Malaga during the 2011-12 season, and given that the midfielder likes to drift towards the left flank and exchange quick passes, Arsenal will hope that any understanding they forged in Spain will see some fast interplay between them, as that's what they thrive on in the attacking third.

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Olivier Giroud will most likely continue up front, having linked up superbly well with his new team-mates at the Emirates recently. Arsenal will still want to take advantage of his height more though, and in games such as this where the Gunners will dominate and have a lot of players forward to break down a stubborn opponent, the full backs will play a big role in crossing.

Spain isn't known for a lot of lofty crosses - that's partly why David De Gea has struggled at times at Manchester United, as he wasn't completely used to the aerial bombardment he received in the Premier League. Therefore, it could be assumed that Monreal is more used to putting in low crosses into the box, in comparison to higher balls, which would still suit Podolski and Walcott (and Giroud certainly wouldn't complain either).

Some research into the strikers that he's played alongside is quite revealing. Javier Saviola has played up front for Malaga this season, and at 5ft 6in is certainly no target man. Another Malaga team-mate of Monreal, Roque Santa Cruz, makes some similar front post runs to Giroud, but isn't known for his aerial dominance.

Jose Salomon Rondon was Malaga's first choice striker before their financial woes set in, and is quite a similar presence to Giroud, and Monreal would have been required to pick him out in the air at times during the 2010/11 season. Furthermore, he played alongside Dady, a leggy Emmanuel Adebayor-type target man at Osasuna, as well as 'The Rifle', Walter Pandiani, who was a real force in the air.

So while La Liga isn't exactly a league where crosses are flying in left, right and centre, Monreal has certainly played alongside some players who would have wanted the ball in the air. This should serve as good preparation for a link-up with Giroud.

In a game in which Arsenal will often be circulating the ball around the opposition's half, hoping for a space to open up to play an intricate through ball into, it's vital that they can cross to a tall striker for another dimension. They've got the striker in Giroud, and they'll be hopeful that Monreal can supply the ammunition, in addition to keeping the width. That way, even if Giroud can't score from the cross, Podolski can be there to offer an option.