Nacho Monreal has been Arsenal's best player in 2015

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Just over a year ago, Arsenal were heavily criticised for the manner in which they collapsed to a 3-3 draw at home to Anderlecht - after having a three goal lead with half an hour to spare.

Nacho Monreal took a hefty chunk of that criticism when his foul lead to an Anderlecht penalty and inspired a Belgian comeback. Since then, the Spanish full-back couldn't have responded any better.

Some of the negative judgement Monreal faced that day was harsh. Arsene Wenger put him into the firing line by picking him in an unnatural position of centre-half.


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Those moments can crush players mentally. Dejan Lovren being one example for Liverpool. He hasn't recovered from his mistakes and doesn't look like he will. Meanwhile, Monreal has gone on to prove he is the best left-back in the league and one of Arsenal's very few players with a tough mentality.

Kieran Gibbs was seen as Arsenal's first choice left-back at the start of last season. For good reason too. Monreal was torn apart, most notably against Everton at the end of the previous season by Romelu Lukaku. The former Malaga player looked like he was an average backup at the time.

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Now Gibbs can no longer get back in the side and no other left back in the league can compete with the consistency of Monreal. He has only missed three league matches in 2015 and not a single one so far this campaign.

That immediately rules out Aleksandar Kolarov who has missed eight, Luke Shaw who has missed 17, and Ryan Bertrand who was absent for nine. Only Aaron Cresswell has played more and his form derailed, along with West Ham's towards the end of last season.

Others will point to Cesar Azpilicueta, who was arguably the Premier League's best left-back last season. Yet this term, Monreal has made more blocks, more clearances and more assists than his Spanish compatriot.

Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will obviously get the headlines and would be the more glamorous choice for Arsenal's best player for this calendar year. However, Monreal would be the most sensible option.

Sanchez at times has single-handedly dragged Arsenal to victories and his influence on others to perform better around him shouldn't be discounted. Nevertheless, Monreal has actually contributed more assists in 2015 than Sanchez has, despite covering for the Chilean at left-back.

Ozil has started to show this season why they spent over £40 million for him, but at the back end of last campaign he went ten matches without contributing an assist.

Not only that, the two matches which Monreal has missed this season were the two opening defeats in the Champions League, both of which Ozil and Sanchez completed 90 minutes.

Now it isn't fair to blame Ozil and Sanchez for those defeats entirely because other key figures were missing too. However, it's hardly a coincidence that when Monreal started the next European game against Bayern Munich, the Gunners kept a clean sheet. Something they failed to do in the two previous games where they conceded five in total.

Monreal should be commended, not only for his impressive defensive performances, but the style in which he has managed to bounce back from those early horror shows at the beginning of his Arsenal career. If the Gunners want to win the title, they need more players like Monreal. Players who can fight back when it gets tough.

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