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Jan 31, 2013

Arsenal signs left back Nacho Monreal

Arsenal left it late but managed to get a signing in before the transfer window shut, securing defender Nacho Monreal from Malaga on a long-term contract.

The Gunners announced the move on their official website just as the deadline approached, saying they had paid an undisclosed fee for the 26-year-old.

The Spain left back arrives at the Emirates Stadium at a perfect time for manager Arsene Wenger, who Wednesday night lost Kieran Gibbs for three weeks with a thigh injury.

"We are delighted that Nacho Monreal has agreed to join us. We have been monitoring him for some time now and are really pleased that we've been able to agree this move today," Wenger said.

"Monreal is a strong left-sided defender with good experience at both club and international level. He is a technically gifted player, a good crosser in the final third and strong in the air. Monreal will add quality to our squad and of course, to our defensive unit. We all look forward to him playing for us."

The deal remains subject to the completion of what Arsenal describes as a formal registration process, but does represent an unusual move from Wenger. He has rarely dealt so close to the deadline, but the injury to Gibbs seems to have forced his hand.

Monreal, a former Osasuna academy graduate, signed for Malaga for $9.5 million in 2011 after making an impression with his hometown club, for whom he made 127 appearances.

He made his debut for Spain in a 2009 friendly against Macedonia and has gone on to win nine caps for the national side.

He should add some steel to a much-maligned Arsenal back four -- a defensive line that was bailed out by Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott against Liverpool.

They made a number of catastrophic errors and were fortunate to only be 2-0 down when the comeback started, and according to striker Lukas Podolski, they cannot keep letting teams get a jump on them.

"It is a problem in the last matches that we are losing a goal and then coming from behind," the German said. "We must start strong from the first minute and score the first goal. In the last few weeks that has always been the problem, that we have to fight and come back.

"However, when you are 2-0 down and you come back like against Liverpool it feels like three points, and this is the way we have been playing recently."

Arsenal remains sixth, four points behind Tottenham and three off fifth-placed Everton in the race to secure Champions League qualification once again.

Podolski, though, insists the team has what it takes to overhaul its rivals and even catch third-placed Chelsea, which has an eight-point advantage over Arsenal.

"We must fight for the Champions League places and this is our focus. We want third place and we have a lot of matches to play," he said. "We are in the FA Cup and the Champions League, but the focus must be on the Premier League. Of course we wanted to finish first, but we lost a lot of points in the first half of the Premier League and now the difference is too big. All the other teams are really strong so we must fight in every game."

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