If Ignasi Miquel had been told at the beginning of the season that he would feature in Premier League games against Liverpool and Manchester City and also make his Champions League debut during the first half of the campaign then the tall Spaniard would probably not have believed it.
However, the reality is that Miquel, who spent time with Barcelona in his formative years, has now made nine first-team appearances for the Gunners, seven of which have come this season. Having impressed in both FA Cup games against Leyton Orient last season, he made an unexpectedly early foray into Premier League football in August when an injury to Laurent Koscielny, in addition to number of other defensive casualties, meant that he emerged off the bench against Liverpool.
He went on to start all three of Arsenal’s Carling Cup fixtures, turning in some impressive displays in the process, before an injury to Andre Santos saw Miquel handed his Champions League debut in the final group stage game against Olympiacos, this time at left-back. It was an opportunity that he seized, and he garnered further experience when replacing Thomas Vermaelen against Everton last week and Johan Djourou against City yesterday.
Miquel is currently benefitting from a dearth of defensive options, particularly in the full-back department, but is likely to find his opportunities restricted once Kieran Gibbs has recovered from injury. However, it is at the heart of the defence where Miquel is most at home, and it is at centre-back where he has turned in some imperious displays at Reserve level since joining the club from Cornella in 2008.
Appointed Reserve captain by coach Neil Banfield for much of last campaign, the tall defender has not turned out for the second-string with such regularity this time around, owing largely to his first-team commitments. If he is to succeed at Arsenal in the long-term it is likely that he will have to shake off the challenge of fellow centre-back Kyle Bartley, who is currently on loan at Rangers.
For now, though, Miquel is enjoying his time in the spotlight. There are still many aspects of his game that require improvement, such as an occasional rashness in decision making, whilst he is not the quickest player on the pitch, but the 19 year old is firm in the tackle and possesses impressive distribution skills.
Miquel has edged ahead of the isolated Sebastien Squillaci in the Arsenal pecking order this season, and, although he still has some way to go if he is to perform against the likes of Liverpool and City on a regular basis, his commitment hasn’t been found lacking when he has been called upon and the unexpected experience that he has gained over the past few months is likely to stand him in good stead for the future.