Tag Archives: Shkodran Mustafi

How will Unai Emery solve Arsenal defensive puzzle?

Unai Emery is facing a defensive puzzle.

With Rob Holding out for the season, yellow cards to both Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi against Huddersfield means both are suspended for the game at Southampton on Sunday.

Not only does this give the Spaniard a headache for the Premier League match, but also disrupts his planning for the visit of Qarabag in the Europa League on Thursday.

Thursday’s game would have been used to give Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal a run out. Get 90 minutes of senior football under their belts after long lay offs.

Koscielny would have most certainly started at centre back, with Monreal at left back. The problem now for Arsenal is that with Sokratis and Mustafi now out, the pair are now likely to be our central defensive partnership against Southampton.

So what does this mean for Thursday?

Does Emery continue with the rehabilitation of Monreal and Koscielny by giving them 90 minutes against Qarabagm hope they both get through and hope recover quickly enough for Southampton at Sunday lunch time?

Or does he play Sokratis and Mustafi (injury permitting) against Qarabag, keeping Koscielny and Monreal out of danger for Sunday.

The fear will be against Qarabag, the one of either Koscielny or Monreal picks up a little niggle ruling them out of Sunday. This is highly likely. Small injuries often occur after a long lay off. And even if they do both get through unscathed, are either yet fully fit enough to play 90 minutes twice in less than 3 days?

Arsenal were already without first choice U23 pairing Daniel Ballard and Julio Pleguezuelo, as well as Kostadinos Mavropanos. This would mean that if either Koscielny or Monreal were to not fit for Sunday, either 18-year-old Zech Medly would start, or Arsenal would have to move either Stephan Lichtsteiner or Granit Xhaka into the back four.

Logic dictates that you do not involved Koscielny or Monreal against Qarabag. It would also make sense to not play Sokratis if Mustafi’s hamstring injury is to rule him out of further games.

So Medley and Big Carl Jenkinson it is then/

Keenos

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Arsenal punished due to refereeing inconsistency

Referee Paul Tierney was completely correct in booking Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Matteo Guendouzi for diving.

We have to remember that a dive is not just feigning contact. FA rules state:

Diving is defined as an attempt by a player to gain an unfair advantage by falling to the ground and possibly feigning an injury, to give the impression that a foul has been committed.

Just because their has been contact, it does not mean that a foul has been committed. All too often, a player go’s to ground with minimal contact, rolls about feigning injury, exaggerating the contact, in the hope of gaining an advantage.

FIFA call this “simulation”. Just because you might have been touched, it does not give you a right to go down. If the contact was not enough to impede you, then it is not a foul. If, at the slightest brush, you then decide to go down instead of remain on your feet, you should be booked for diving.

Unfortunately, when it comes to diving, referee’s in England tend to be very inconsistent.

Against Huddersfield on Saturday, Tierney followed the rules of the game, booking Xhaka, Mustafi and Guendouzi. The problem is all too often referees wave play on.

We often see Dele Alli, Jamie Vardy, and others go down with little to no contact. The referee waves play on a we get on with the game. Against Leicester on Saturday Dele Alli feigned injury to give an impression that a foul had been committed. The referee in that game waved play on.

So Arsenal (rightly) got 3 players booked – one of which will lead to a suspension – whilst other players never get punished as referee’s wave play on.

Against Tottenham, Son Heung-min went down to win a penalty. Rob Holding lunged into a challenge, and made zero contact with the South Korean.

The media response was that due to Holding sliding in, Son had a right to go down. He did not. He cheated. He went down with no contact (or at most minimal) and rolled about feigning injury. He should have been booked. Instead the referee gave a penalty.

Mistakes happen, but what has happened since just highlights the inconsistency of the FA.

November last year, Everton’s Oumar Niasse was banned for 2 games having been deemed to have deliberately attempted to con referee Anthony Taylor to give a penalty.

The FA charged Niasse with “successful deception of a match official” and an Independent Regulatory Commission was unanimous in its decision to ban the Senegalese.

After the game, Crystal Palace’s Scott Dann (who made the challenge) said the referee had been “conned”.

 “I don’t like to see people getting punished but also I don’t like people diving to win penalties. [Niasse] probably knows he has conned them.

“If there was [contact] it was minimal. I haven’t tried to tackle him; he has gone past me and you can see on the replays he has dived. At half-time, [Taylor] probably knew he made the wrong decision.”

Replays showed that there was contact between Dann and Niasse, but it was extremely minimal. The Holding incident with Son was similar. If there was contact it was minimal.

Yet a week on from that game, Son has not been charged by the FA – let alone given a 2-game ban like Niasse. Meanwhile Arsenal have 3 players booked for similar incidents. Mustafi now suspended after reaching 5 yellow cards.

The incidents involving Xhaka and Mustafi had a similar level of “contact” as Son against us last weekend.

If the FA believe Xhaka and Mustafi were dives why have they not charged and suspended Son?

Too often they hide behind what the referee has “seen” and “not seen”. Were Xhaka and Mustafi incorreclty booked? Probably not. Should Son have been suspended for 2 games? Well the precedent is there with Niasse.

Further inconsistency was shown on Wednesday.

Marouane Fellaini pulled Guendouzi back by his hair. A similar incident happened back in 2016 when Robert Huth pulled back Fellaini by his hair. Huth was banned for 3 games.

In the incident with Guendouzi, Fellaini has escaped any retrospective action.

Now some will say you are only moaning because it is Arsenal and you are right, I am moaning because it was Arsenal. But up and down the country every weekend fans of clubs are complaining about referee decisions. We are all affected by it. The quicker VAR comes in the better.

All fans want is consistency.

Keenos

Arsenal can not risk a repeat of Sebastien Squillaci

I have long held the opinion that Arsenal will only sign one centre back this summer.

With Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Calum Chambers, Rob  Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos set to be joined in Islington by Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 7 into 2 does not go.

There is an argument that we should sell to buy. That Shkodran Mustafi will leave the club and be replaced, but this does not make me comfortable.

The two names heavily linked are Caglar Soyuncu and Benjamin Pavard, both 22.

With Laurent Koscielny out injured until 2019, it would be very risky to try and integrate a new first choice centre back pairing without having senior back up.

Buying from a new country is always uncertain, even somewhere like Germany where the style and quality of football is very similar to the Premier League.

If Arsenal made the decision to try and integrate Sokratis alongside either Soyuncu or Pavard, without having a senior back up, the risks would be great.

If one struggles to settle – like when Sebastien Squillaci flopped upon moving from Spain (he was just 30-years-old at the time), we need to ensure we have adequate back up. Holding, Chambers and Mavropanos are not adequate back up.

The summer we signed Squillaci, we also secured the services of Laurent Koscielny.

The French pair were added to a squad that contained Thomas Vermaalen and Johan Djourou.

The Belgian had been at the club for a year (and had not yet broken down) and Djourou at 23 was showing himself to be one of the best young centre backs in the league.

In Squillaci we secured an experienced French international. Laurent Koscielny a bit of a risk – 24-years-old with just a single year of top flight football to his name.

However we could take that risk as we had Vermaalen in the squad.

Low-and-behold, Vermaalen broke down – playing just 5 games, and Squillaci failed to keep up with the pace of the game. This left us relying on Koscielny and Djoruou. The pair playing 80 games between them.

Now picture the scene.

Koscielny is out injured until 2019. Sokratis comes in and his Arsenal career replicates that of Squillaci. He flops.

We have sold Mustafi to make room for the new lad – lets say Soyuncu – and all of a sudden we are playing a 22 year old in his first season in England alongside Calum Chambers. And what happens if we get hit by the double wammy? That Soyuncu (or Pavard) also struggles?

At least with Mustafi, we know what we have. We might not be 100% sure on him, but he has been in England for 2 years, and would provide some sort of consistency.

And with Hector Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis and Saed Kolasinac not at the World Cup, they will get a full 8 weeks with Unai emery being coached, organised, and taught how to defend.

However, whilst watching France v Australia, and seeing Pavard play for the first team, a solution came to mind.

With both Pavard and Soyuncu being 22, they would not be getting signed for now, but also with one eye on the future – the next 8 – 10 years.

Last season Arsenal played 60 games. This season I imagine it will be similar.

That means there is plenty of game time to justify paying the money for a new, young centre back.

Instead of coming in to partner Sokratis, they will be coming in to compete with Mustafi to partner him.

They struggle to settle straight away, it means the senior partnership of Mustafi and Sokratis starts. If they come in and fly, it would mean that Mustafi is relegate to that second choice.

But this would still leave us with 7 centre backs for 2 positions.

We can write off Koscielny. January 2019 is the earliest he will be back to fitness. And that is if there are no complications with his Achilles injury. It would not be too much of a surprise to me if we never see him in an Arsenal shirt again – with his contract expiring in 2020.

That means we still need to shed one. Either Chambers, Holding or Mavropanos.

Reports are that Fulham are interested in Calum Chambers, with prices mooted about of £20m.

Watching Pavard play, out of position at right back, he certainly looks like an upgrade on the Englishman. Soyuncu is as well.

By trading in Chambers for £20m, and signing one of the others for £35m seems like a good deal. An additional £15m spent on a better player.

We would then have Mustafi and Sokratis as first choice centre backs, and Soyuncu / Pavard alongside Rob Holding as the second string players, getting game time in the League Cup and Europa League.

A lot of people will now be moaning about Mavropanos.

Let’s remember he is still just 20-years-old and people calling for him to be considered after just 3 games need to give him the chance.

I would rather Mavropanos remain in and around the squad for the first 6 months, giving us a 5th centre back option. Then if Koscielny does return in 2019, Mavropanos perhaps go’s out on loan for the rest of the season.

That will then leave us with 5 options going into 2019/21.

Sokratis (who will then be 31), Soyuncu / Pavard (23), Mustafi (27), Holding (23) & Mavropanos (21)

A decision could then be made next summer on the future of Mustafi.

If he steps up to the plate and improves alongside a consistent leader like Sokratis, he stays. If he shows himself adequate enough (and is happy being) 3rd choice centre back, that is fine as well.

If he fails to improve, and Arsenal decide to cash in, they at least then know about Sokratis and the new guy, and if one hasn’t fully settled, look to buy another centre back next summer.

Whilst I am still not comfortable someone coming in this summer to replace Mustafi in the summer, I am certainly not against bringing in someone who will bridge the skills gap between Holding / Chambers / Mavropanos and Sokratis, even if that means that one of the 3 youngsters ends up making way.

Keenos