26 September 2017

Lacazette bags the brace, but Monreal steals the show!

It doesn't often happen when your mate bags a brace and your squad boasts of almost 70% possession that you, a wide defender in a 3-4-3, get to claim MOTM honors, but when you're Nacho Monreal, well, you floor that like Koscielny floors opponents of questionable personality and repute. On a day when we pushed Pulis's peons around like—well, like peons—we voted none other than Monreal as our Man of the Match. It's almos as if Nacho looked at Pulis's "tactics" and decided he would show the man how football is played, proper. Not to slight the man he dislodged from the position, but Monreal showed us just how irrelevant Gibbs had become. Let's look at some numbers...

By the numbers:
  • Results of our MOTM Poll: Monreal pulls 68.6% of the vote. That's a land-slide.
  • Pass accuracy: 93.8% (best of either squad).
  • Passes attempted: 64 (4th overall).
  • Aerials won: 3 (4th overall, 3rd best in squad, ).
  • Touches: 86 (3rd highest in squad and overall).
  • Tackles: 4 (2nd overall, 1st in squad).
  • Interceptions: 6 (best of either squad).
  • Clearances: 3 (7th overall, 4th in squad).
  • Goal-line clearances: 1 (best of either squad).
What's remarkable is how well Monreal acquitted himself despite competing in several categories against players who, by rights, should have been padding their stats. West Brom claimed only 31% possession, which suggests that their defenders should have found ample opportunity to make tackles, interceptions, or clearances. That wasn't the case, and this goes to show just how dedicated Monreal was in this—and in just about each match he plays.

It would have been easy for him to bask in the glory of a crucial goal-line clearance, one that very much saved the match for us when we were still struggling to take it by the scruff. An equaliser that close to half-time would have given Pulis all the motivation he might need to prove that we were on the ropes and that a few more body-blows—be they literal or figurative—would knock us out. Nuh-unh.

Monreal got right down to business and made it clear to his mates that they would have to raise their games if they were going to find a result. Look at that screen-shot—that's mere seconds after clearing the line. He's not content. He's not satisfied. If anything he's enraged that he had to sprint 50 yards to make that play in the first place.

We talk a lot about "passion", but we too often mistake it for the exhibitions a player displays after scoring or failing to score. Monreal showed the passion that allows those moments to matter in the first place. Lacazette will surely garner all of the plaudits for bagging his brace, and he deserves credit where credit is due. However, let's not overlook the industry or the intensity that Monreal instilled in the squad from beginning to end.

Still not quite convinced? Check out this most-excellent highlight-reel from Oscar (follow him on Twitter):


And, if only because we are here to offer out-of-date pop-culture references, I leave you with this: