100% clearances, 100% tackle success - Arsenal's unsung hero

Nacho Monreal Arsenal 1

Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere won much post-match praise for their performance against Cardiff City but there was a mighty defensive performance.

While Arsenal's English pair of Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were at their devastating and chance creating best versus Cardiff City on Wednesday, January 1, they were not the only exceptional performers - yet this one player has not received the same praise as he plays in defence, rather than attack.

In the absence of Arsene Wenger's record purchase, Mesut Ozil, the number ten position was filled by Jack Wilshere, whose ability with the ball at his feet - both in terms of dribbling as well as incisive passing - appeared to be the bane of many a Cardiff defender.

Wilshere assisted Theo Walcott for the game's crucial second goal, but the latter had made mature runs all afternoon, was a threat from set-play, completed a strong 40% of his 13 cross attempts and was unafraid of making an attempt on goal.

For all of their attacking efforts, though, the collective performance would suffered had it not been for the defensive discipline.

Per Mertesacker (completed three out of three headers, 93% of his passes and made six clearances) was a threat at the attacking end of the pitch also, and his partnership with Laurent Koscielny (one successful tackle, 95% pass success) was also on point, yet Nacho Monreal is arguably Arsenal's most unsung player from the Cardiff victory.

The Spaniard, maligned for his bogus display against Manchester City, was a marvel today.

He was a menace in defence, contributed to the attack and played his roaming full back role commendably well.

Monreal completed 100% of his tackle attempts, made an astonishing nine clearances (all of which were successful), completed 46 of his 49 passes and found a team-mate with 40% of his crosses.

The most important statistic of all, though, is Arsenal two, Cardiff City nil - the Gunners kept their sheet clean.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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