EPL 2016-17: How Shkodran Mustafi would fit in at Arsenal
Given the hullabaloo that has been raised by the Arsenal fans over the need of a new defender, it is no wonder that Shkodran Mustafi, the German defender currently with Valencia team has been associated with the London club. If two games into the season, are any indication as to how Arsenal will line up over the season, then the presence of another experienced defender is a must.
A glance over Mustafi’s Twitter profile does indicate quite a fan following. Obviously, he has come a long way since his days as an Evertonian. Surprised? Well, don’t be, this is not the only World Cup winning defender that Everton had on their books before they let them go. Marco Materazzi, the current manager of Indian Super League club Chennaiyin, who was also infamous for the head-butting incident with Zinedine Zidane, was also on their books.
The fact that they both won World Cups with their respective national teams after leaving the Merseyside club will not be soothing news for Everton fans.
Fitting in the Arsenal team – Leader from the back
Injuries ensure that Mustafi, if he does join the Arsenal, will walk straight into the starting line-up. While he may be only 24, he does have an established head on his shoulders. To say that his career has taken off his an understatement, especially that it was only two years ago that he signed for Valencia, having moved from Sampdoria.
At Arsenal though he will have to “learn on the job”, given the absence of central defenders Gabriel and Per Mertesacker. Alongside Laurent Koscielny, Mustafi can actually form a solid defence. If his performance in the Euros are anything to go by then Mustafi will bring a wealth of calmness and leadership into the defence.
Trusted enough by Joachim Low, in the summer to start ahead of Mats Hummels in the game against Ukraine, where he ended up scoring the opening goal. His versatility to play across the defence, having played as a right back in the World Cup winning squad, is an asset, while he can also provide adequate cover for Hector Bellerin.
Also, his international know-how can help the other young defenders in the squad, in the form of Rob Holding and Callum Chambers. His experience with Everton and Sampdoria does ensure that he fits into the cultural fabric of the dressing room which is multi-lingual in nature.
With Patrick Vieira, already reiterating the need for a physical presence in the Arsenal line-up, more importantly strengthening the spine of the team, Mustafi can satisfy that criteria. With Petr Cech, lining up in goal and the combined presence of Laurent Koscielny and Mustafi in defence, it can only liberate the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez and can give Arsene the option to juggle the likes of Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshire in different attacking formations. Basically, it offers Arsene more flexibility, with more movement between the lines.
Further, he can experiment with the likes of a Cazorla-Xhaka axis or the Xhaka-Coquelin axis or the Xhaka-Elneny axis depending on the opposition and injuries to the personnel. With Aaron Ramsey in the squad, who does the all-action midfield role, the presence of the German defender can create a more flowing move from defence to attack.
In a very brief career in top flight football, Mustafi has already achieved quite a bit on the international stage having been a part of the successful World Cup winning squad with Germany in Brazil. His interactions with senior statesmen of German football and his tactical know-how will serve him well in adapting to the Premier League.
His stint with Sampdoria improved his positioning and game reading skills and he reaped the benefits of that knowledge with Valencia. Having partnered Nicolas Otamendi, before his departure, Mustafi has managed to establish himself in the playing eleven without question.
Arsene Wenger has been coy about him over the past weeks but would have loathed the fact if he had lost him to a Premier League rival. He can be the right fit as well, as his age allows him to combine his inherent maturity with the fine tuning skills that the Frenchman can help unearth. With Wenger now confirming the signing of the defender, it will be a relief to the Arsenal fans.
With Valencia needing to act in accordance with the Financial Fair Play guidelines, the La Liga club has cashed in on their most marketable asset. For Arsenal fans, this news will be more than welcome.
Earlier, this week the Valencia coach had exclaimed his reluctance to sell Mustafi, after losing their opening La Liga fixture on Monday at the Mestalla. Instead, he hinted at strengthening the squad given the defensive lapses his side showed, as they lost the game 4-2 against Las Palmas. Accepting that it was a disappointing result for the squad, he expected the squad to get better and improve on their current performances.
Valencia had a turbulent time last season, although Mustafi was one of the brighter players. Los Che will now resume their La Liga campaign on Sunday as they travel to Eibar and hopefully will be able to get their first win on the board as Mustafi looks on to another stint in the Premier League.