EXCLUSIVE By James Goldman
Nacho Monreal insists that he is happy at Arsenal and is ready to fight for his place in the team despite renewed speculation surrounding his future.
The 29-year-old capitalised on Kieran Gibbs's ongoing fitness issues and loss of form to establish himself as the Gunners' first-choice left-back last season. Monreal made 39 appearances in all competitions and was selected ahead of Gibbs for the FA Cup final win against Aston Villa.
The Basque-born Spain international has consistently been linked with a return to his homeland, with Athletic his keenest admirers, but says that his focus remains on keeping his place in Arsene Wenger's starting XI.
"I'm very happy at Arsenal," Monreal, who is part of the squad currently touring Singapore, told Goal. "Of course I enjoyed playing in a lot of the games last season and that is the target again - that is all I can say right now.
"When you play for Arsenal, you know they are one of the biggest clubs in England but, here in Singapore, you see they are also one of the biggest clubs in the world.
"The reception we get from the fans everywhere we go is amazing to see for the players and we are very happy to be here with them."
Arsenal have been quiet in the transfer market so far this summer but their one major addition, former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech, has given the squad a big lift and Monreal has been impressed by the way in which the Czech Republic international has settled in.
"He has so much experience of playing at the top level for so many years. He will bring confidence to the team," the defender enthused.
"We have not played a game together yet but, in training, he is absolutely amazing. You know from playing against him how good he is but, to see him in training now every day, you really see how good he is.
"He has integrated into the group very well. You can see he is a great guy and also very intelligent as well."
Cech's first competitive game for Arsenal is likely to come against his former club in the Community Shield at Wembley in August.
Wenger's side will be defending the trophy that they won last year with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Manchester City and Monreal believes that beating Chelsea, a side Arsenal against whom have struggled in recent years, would give them a huge psychological boost.
He said: "It is a chance to win another trophy at Wembley, which is great for the players and the fans. Of course we did it against Manchester City last year and it gave us a really good feeling ahead of the new season.
"We want to do the same now against Chelsea in a really big game. Of course we have found it difficult against them - they are the great team with a very good manager - but it will also be a difficult game for them."
Nacho Monreal was in Singapore to launch Arsenal's new PUMA away kit, which is available to buy now at PUMA.com/Arsenal and ArsenalDirect.com.