Arsenal signed Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia in 2016. The talk of the first few months of his Arsenal career was that he had solved Arsenal’s long term defensive problems.
In December of the same year, whilst everyone was saying how great he was – at that point he had yet to be in a losing side in an Arsenal shirt – I wrote a blog highlighting that Mustafi had not really solved Arsenal’s defensive crisis.
Pretty much 18 months on from that article, the evidence is conclusive. Mustafi has not solved Arsenal’s issues in defence.
Against Newcastle yesterday, fault for both goals can be laid squarely at the German’s feet.
For the first, he was static, letting Ayoze Perez run across the front of him in the 6-yard box. He made a near identical mistake for Shane Long’s goal for Southampton last week.
And for the second he was caught ball watching once more.
It was a poor header by Nacho Monreal, but Mustafi failed to follow Islam Slimani. This led the Algerian to have a free header and set the ball rolling for Newcastle’s winner.
A lot of people complain that Arsene Wenger does not improve defenders. Whilst this argument does have some weight, the problem with Mustafi is something that can not be coached.
He continually loses his man, continually lets his opponent run off the front, side and back of him. He is certainly not a Martin Keown when it comes to man marking.
His mistakes are due to one thing. His lack of concentration. This leads him to be continually out of position. Always on the back foot. And many a goal conceded. Concentration is not something that can be coached into a player.
So Mustafi needs to go. Or at least be relegated to a squad player. And this is where Arsenal’s defensive crisis deepens.
Laurent Koscielny can not be relied upon to play 38 league games. He will be 33 in September and has the Achilles of a 90 year old. He has struggled to play twice a week this season and needs replacing.
So Arsenal have one centre back who is not good enough to be first choice, and another who is not fit enough to be first choice.
It leaves Arsenal in a situation where we now need to sign two first choice centre backs in the summer.
But is trying to buy two top class centre backs in the summer unrealistic?
Arsenal are once again prisoners of being poor in the transfer market.
Last summer it was clear that either Gabriel or Mustafi could leave the club. Gabriel went back to Spain, and Mustafi nearly went to Inter Milan.
But what did not happen was Arsenal signing a new centre back.
We knew last summer that Mustafi was not good enough. We also knew Koscielny had his injury issues. And we knew Per Mertesacker had very little left in the tank. So why did we not sign a new centre back last summer – regardless of Mustafi going to Inter Milan or not?
With a bit of forward planning, we should have signed a centre back in 2017 who could then play alongside either Koscielny or Mustafi. And then in 2018 buy another centre back to partner that man.
Instead we signed no one. And that leaves us in a position where we now need to sign (and imbed) two new centre backs into the first team.
It is a situation that we should not be in. And a situation that will probably only see us sign one centre back. And it is also a situation of our own making.
A situation that highlights just how poor we have been in the transfer market over the last 10 years. No planning. No thinking. Just winging it.
Hopefully with the two new men coming in (Sven Mislintat & Raul Sanllehi) will take the power and thinking on transfers away from dithering Wenger.
What is for certain, Mustafi has not solved our defensive crisis.