Tag Archives: Shkodran Mustafi

Arsenal will have to wait “until January” before selling central defenders

“Arsenal have 8 centre backs, we need to sell” has been written countless times over the summer.

As it stands, Arsenal have not sold a single one, with only Konstantinos Mavropanos leaving on loan to VfB Stuttgart in Germany – and he was not one of the “Magnificent Eight”.

So what is happening at the club with regards to our central defender situation?

Gabriel Magalhães was signed from Lille over the summer and William Saliba returned from his season long loan at Saint-Étienne, whilst David Luiz signed a new contract.

Arsenal also made the loan deal of Pablo Mari permanent.

A few people have questioned why Arsenal signed Pablo Mari, and then later went on to sign Gabriel, which pushed Mari down to 4th choice centre back – a role Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi could all have played.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

When Arsenal signed Mari, Gabriel was not on the radar as a transfer this summer.

Arsenal would have been scouting the Brazilian, but with a move likely next summer – so Arsenal agreed a deal for Mari back in January with Flamengo.

Gabriel then came available and Edu clearly felt the club could not afford to miss out on such a prestigious talent – even if it meant having one defender too many.

And that is how we came to sign both Gabriel and Mari.

Luiz, Gabriel, Saliba and Mari looked set to make up Arsenal’s defensive options with Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi all no longer required but none have yet exited stage left. The question is why?

A loan deal seemed to be agreed taking Holding to Newcastle, but the transfer quickly died and Holding found himself starting the first game of the season against Fulham.

Despite having 7 central defenders, Arsenal did not have a single one on the bench. This highlights why no one has left. They are all injured.

David Luiz picked up a knock prior to the Fulham game, but has now returned, whilst William Saliba was lacking in match sharpness having not played since March. A few games with the U23s might be needed for the Frenchman.

Those two joined Pablo Mari on the sidelines who is still recovering from damaging his ankle ligaments back in June. Mari is back in full training but it will be a couple of weeks before he is fully fit.

Without Luiz and Saliba in the short term, and Mari in the mid-term, Arsenal did the sensible thing and pulled the rug on the transfer of Holding to Newcastle. He was needed in Islington.

Holding still has a role to play at Arsenal albeit as 4th or 5th choice centre back.

If he remains at Arsenal this season, he will be back up to Luiz, Gabriel, Saliba and Mari; with the potential to replace Luiz as 4th choice next summer. It all comes down to whether he wants to be a bit-part player at Arsenal, or play week in week out at someone like Newcastle.

For now Arsenal can not afford to lose Holding.

Keeping Holding means they can afford to lose Sokratis.

Sokratis is another who is currently injured.

The club said he sustained a “mild strain to right calf in training”, with an of returning to full training “within the next week”.

You feel once he has recovered, his deal to Napoli will go through.

That leaves Calum Chambers and Shkodran Mustafi.

The problem Arsenal face with the pair is they are both injured, with neither expected back in full training until October.

By the time they are “match fit” it will probably be November.

Injuries mean that they are not available to play (obviously) but also unlikely to be sold.

This puts Arsenal in a situation where we have 5 centre backs (Luiz, Gabriel, Saliba, Mari & Holding), and have an additional 2 that are not fully fit, who can not be sold.

So whilst selling Sokratis will take us down to 7 central defenders, only 3 are fit for selection for West Ham and 2 are not going to be full fit for at least another 6 weeks.

This will result in Arsenal not selling Chambers and Mustafi, and potentially not even registering the later.

Arsenal will then look to loan (or sell) the pair in January.

Mustafi, whose contract expires at the end of the season, could end up making a similar move to Cedric Soares.

A team might decide to pick him up on loan for 5 months, with the pre-contract agreement already in place to make the move permanent in June. A move like that would suit Arsenal, Mustafi and the club loaning him.

Likewise, we might see Chambers move out on loan in January, with an option to buy at the end of the season.

A similar deal could be done for Rob Holding if Pablo Mari has returned to full fitness, with Arsenal then having the option of Chambers, Holding or Mavropanos to return from loan and replace Luiz in 2021.

It might feel like Arsenal have a lot of centre backs at the club right now, but the reality is somewhat different.

Holding will stay, Sokratis will be sold, and not much else can realistically happen until January.

Keenos

Mustafi to stay, Guendouzi to go as Arsenal look to go 6th

Games are coming thick and fast now.

Tonight we play Leicester. And if it feels like we only played a couple of days ago; that is because we did.

Whilst some managers have complained about the short turn around for players, the actual truth is that teams in Europe are in this situation every season.

Arsenal would have played Saturday / Sunday and Tuesday / Wednesday for 6 weeks (bar a game against Southampton on a Thursday).

This is not much difference than what clubs do in November and October, jumping from weekend Premier League games to mid-week European and League Cup matches.

The only major difference is there is no international break (which sees players fly across the globe) and the furthest a club would have to travel is either Newcastle or Bournemouth rather than taking midnight flights to deepest darkest Eastern Europe, also known as Belarus.

For teams like Arsenal, players will be used to playing twice a week. And the lack of long travel for Euro aways is actually easier on their body.

Teams lower down in the league might complain that they do not have the resources to play twice a week for long periods, but you never hear them feel sorry for top clubs when they arrive back in the UK from Moscow at 3am Friday morning, and then need to be in Newcastle for a noon kick off on Sunday.

Plenty of news floating about this morning.

The first is Arsenal are considering a new deal for Shkodran Mustafi.

He has been in fine form since returning to the team under Mikel Arteta, and has always been a good centre back. He just makes a mistake every 7 or 8 games that leads to conceding a goal. And it always seemed to lead to a goal which saw Arsenal lose, rather than a consultation goal in a 5-1 victory.

With his deal running out next summer, Arsenal need to make the decision soon.

The club have been impressed with his contribution during the Covid19 pandemic. The German donated over 16,000 meals and other emergency supplies to people in Islington.

He has stepped up as a personality within the squad, and maybe the club have looked at the finances and what players are available on the market and decided Mustafi might be the best choice?

With Pablo Mari signing, David Luiz staying and William Saliba returning, adding Mustafi and one of Rob Holding or Calum Chambers would not be a bad group of central defenders.

Since Arteta took over, Arsenal have conceded 14 goals in 15 league games. Only Liverpool and Manchester United have conceded less (11). Across all games Arsenal have kept 10 clean sheets in 21 games.

The current defenders at the club are certainly making a case to be kept, rather than big investment made in another new central defender.

My gut is stick with what we have, Saliba and Mari are new signings, and then next summer recruit someone to replace David Luiz is Mari, Saliba or Mustafi do not form a solid partnership.

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 24: Shkodran Mustafi of Arsenal embraces Matteo Guendouzi of Arsenal after the UEFA Europa League group F match between Arsenal FC and Vitoria Guimaraes at Emirates Stadium on October 24, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

On William Saliba, a headline this morning is that “Arsenal have made a U-turn” with allowing him to play in the French Cup final.

This story has always been written from a very odd standpoint.

The media criticised Arsenal for “going back on an agreement” that “angered Saint-Étienne.” But then the truth came out that Saint-Étienne were demanding an additional £2.5million for Saliba to play one game.

Why would Arsenal pay the French side £2.5million to pay one game when not contracted to? – remember the original loan deal had expired so a new temporary loan deal would have to be agreed.

Arsenal were painted in the media as the bad guys, when it is clear that all Saint-Étienne was the money.

Now it is reported that “Arsenal have made a U-turn”. Again, making it appear Arsenal were the bad guys.

Chances are it is Saint-Étienne who have U-turned; realising that having their first choice central defender play a final is more important than the £2.5million they wanted Arsenal to pay.

The French side basically had a choice:

  1. Accept no fee, get Saliba for the final
  2. Do not accept no fee, don’t get Saliba for the final, receive no money

In both situations they do not get money; but in only one situation they get their on-loan defender for their biggest game in recent history.

We end today with the rumours over Matteo Guendouzi.

David Ornstein broke the news last night that the Frenchman had been training alone since the post-match spat with Brighton.

It shows Arteta’s authoritarian stance.

Guendouzi has previously mocked Unai Emery, cause issues for Freddie Ljungberg and was dropped following a row with coaching staff during the mid-season trip to Dubai.

A lot of Guendouzi’s behaviour can be labelled as “immature”.

From mocking Emery’s accent to taking his shirt off at dinner and waving it over his head in Dubai. Whilst he is only 21-years-old, footballers need to grow up quickly.

Everyone has been impressed with the maturity shown by Bukayo Saka. He talks well and behaves in the way you would expect of an Arsenal youngster.

Compare Guendouzi to Declan Rice.

They are the same age, but in recent weeks Rice has stepped up as a leader on the pitch for West Ham, captaining them a few times. He is showing the mentality needed to become a top player. Guendouzi is not.

The ball is now in Guendouzi’s court.

He either needs to take responsibility for his behaviour, his actions; stop being the class clown and concentrate on his football. Or be sold.

Guendouzi’s current deal runs out in 2022. This summer he should be signing a new 5-year double your money deal. Instead he could find himself being shipped out.

There will be no shortage of suiters for the midfielder, who is still one of the brightest prospects in Europe. Like with Mario Balotelli and other problem players, managers will think “if he matures, I can get him to play, there could be a world class player in there”.

Arsenal might be best off getting cashing in rather than hoping he quickly matures.

The £40million he would raise would be key transfer funds, almost paying for Thomas Partey.

On a final note, we remember the 52 people that died in the 7/7 London bombings; 15 years ago today. We shall never surrender.

Keenos

Arteta has Mustafi headache

3 weeks ago it was all clear.

Pablo Mari had joined the club on loan, a deal which Arsenal would likely make permanent in the summer.

He would become Arsenal’s 6th central defender in the squad that already contained David Luiz, Sokratis, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Shkodran Mustafi. With William Saliba set to arrive in the summer.

That would make it 7 central defenders at the club, with Arsenal heavily linked with an 8th in Dayot Upamecano.

Chambers has a long term injury, with is being unclear when exactly next season he would be back. Mustafi would surely leave – with a year left on his contract and clearly out of favour. That would leave Arsenal needing to shift one more defender – either Luiz or Sokratis – to bring the number down to 5 (excluding Calum Chambers).

2020/21

New signing
Pablo Mari
David Luiz or Sokratis
Rob Holding
William Saliba

2021/22

New signing
Pablo Mari
Rob Holding
William Saliba
Calum Chambers

But then the recent form of Mustafi has thrown a spanner in the works.

Mustafi has started 8 of Mikel Arteta’s first 11 games – the 3 he missed due to injury. He is clearly in favour for the new manager.

Not only is Mustafi back in favour but he is also playing well. Well enough to give Arteta and the team a bit of a headache for next season.

A decision needs to now be made on Mustafi’s future. Does his recent good form and Arteta liking him result in him remaining beyond this season?

If Arteta does want to keep him, a new contract would have to be offered as his current one runs out in 2021.

Arsenal then need to decide what they do…

Would Mustafi staying meaning no new first choice central defender?
Or would it Mari no longer join us on a free?
And what for Sokratis who has now fallen behind Mustafi?
Then you have Rob Holding who has struggled to return following his injury…

Plenty to think about as the season comes to a close.

Keenos