Football

Nacho Monreal: I was scared when Arsene Wenger asked me to play centre-back

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Arsenal defender Nacho Monreal has admitted to being scared when Arsene Wenger first asked him to play at centre-back last season.

The Spanish star - a left-back by trade - was deployed as emergency cover in the middle of the Gunners back four when injuries took their toll and ravaged the first-team squad at the start of the campaign.

Looking back on that period in an unfamiliar role, Monreal is proud of the way he handled the extra responsibility, but revealed there were doubts in his mind initially about whether or not he could succeed.

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"During my whole career I played as a left-back, it's my natural position - not centre-back," he is quoted saying in an interview with Arsenal blog. "It was the first time I played centre-back this season, before I'd never played it. It was something that was difficult for me.

"When the boss told me, 'Nacho, you're going to play like centre-back', I was scared! I was like, 'Are you speaking seriously?'

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"I remember the first two games was difficult for me. In the middle you run less but it's more in the mind. You have to be more focused. You can't make any mistakes because [if] you make a mistake, it's a goal probably. It was difficult."

Thankfully, the return to full fitness of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny - and the January addition of Gabriel Paulista from Villarreal - means that the 29-year-old has been able to return to his favoured position on the flank.

However, it's reassuring that Wenger has another versatile Arsenal star capable of filling in at the heart of defence if and when it is needed at the Emirates Stadium.

"The best thing about playing centre-back was that I was playing for ten games," he added. "After that, I was completely fit so when the boss said, 'Nacho, you come back to playing left-back' I was ready to play.

"It wasn't starting from the bottom again. I felt strong, I was confident because I was playing. After in the rest of the season I played left-back, like I've played always, and it was a good season for me. Two seasons ago I didn't play, I didn't defend good."

Arsenal fans: How important a player is Nacho Monreal to the first-team squad? Would you pick him ahead of Kieran Gibbs at left-back? Have your say in the comment box below...

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Nacho Monreal
Arsenal
Arsene Wenger

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