Tag Archives: Shkodran Mustafi

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.



Sokratis to be only incoming centreback at Arsenal

With the signing of Sokratis (I can’t be bothered to Google his surname) imminent – or completed if he signs before this blog goes live, the talk now is “who is next”.

A goal keeper, defensive midfielder, back up right back and winger are a must, but plenty of fans are also calling for a second centre back to sign.

I can not see Arsenal signing a second centre back.

Firstly we have budget constraints.

Whilst we will bring in a lot more than the £50m worth of players the press are claiming, we still have to be sensible.

Having all but secured Sokratis and right back Stephan Lichtsteiner set to join on a free, our financial strength should be chucked behind signing a goalkeeper, defensive midfielder and wideman. A 2nd centre back will not be top of the list.

There is a lack of decent centre backs around in world football at the moment. It is why Liverpool spent so much on Virgil van Dijk (who is average). And look how much Manchester City have spent on a partner for Vincent Kompany (Mangala, Otamendi, Stone, Laporte and more!).

To secure one decent centre back in transfer window is sufficient. To secure a second is fairly unrealistic, and it would feel like whoever we got in next (such as Johnny Evans) would not be a player we actually want.

Arsenal will sign a new goal keeper and defensive midfielder this summer. Were we to also add a another first choice centre back alongside Sokratis, that will mean complete new personnel in the heart of our defensive shape. A new keeper, 2 new centre backs and a new defensive midfielder, it just is not feasible.

By partnering Sokratis with Shkdoran Mustafi, and playing Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal either side, it will see us keep at least 50% continuity at the back once the new goal keeper and defeisnvie midfielder have joined. That is important.

More likely will be to bring Sokratis in this season, and then sign him a partner next season if Mustafi does not perform.

Sokratis looks a leader. Strong and commanding. The type of player that is needed to get the best out of Mustafi. It would be sensible to give Mustafi another 12 months before dumping him. Let’s see how he performs alongside a consistent defender next to him.

With neither Sokratis or Mustafi going to the World Cup, it will give them a full two month pre-season to develop a partnership. Add in Bellerin and Saed Kolasinac, Unai Emery will have plenty of time to drill an organised back four before the season starts.

There is a (valid) opinion that Mustafi is not good enough and a new centre back coming in will replace him. But again this is unlikely – especially with Laurent Koscielny out until 2019.

Picture the scene if we get rid of Mustafi. It leaves us with:

2 new centre backs
Calum Chambers
Rob Holding
Konstantinos Mavropanos

It just looks weak.

Chambers and Holding have so far shown themselves to be inconsistent, and Mavropanos is already being overhyped after just a handful of games.

Mustafi might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we know what we are getting. With Sokratis we don’t entirely know what we are in for. Losing Mustafi and having 2 unknown quantities could leave us high and dry.

All of this would be OK if Koscielny was not injured, as we could go into the new season with Sokratis, Koscielny and another new centre back. But with the Frenchman out, Mustafi becomes key.

The worry would be that if Sokratis or an additional new centre back came in, the risk of both flopping is huge. Without someone who we know backing them up, it could leave us in a situation where we are relying on Chambers, Holding or Mavropanos for the season.

Partnering Mustafi with Sokratis protects us. If Sokratis does struggle, we can then flip one of the others in and it leaves us in a similar situation defensively as we were at the back end of last season.

With a new manager and new coaching staff at London Colney, it is important that we do not let too many players leave.

With Santi Cazorla, Per Mertesacker and (likely) Jack Wilshere gone, we need to keep what we had at the end of last season and build.

Anyone on loan can obviously go, but Arsenal need to keep the likes of Mustafi, Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi. Get the key first team players sorted this summer, then we can look next year at improving on the quality of the squad.

Next season, with Sokratis settled, and the youngsters with another year under the belt, we can then make the switch. Koscielny gone, and Mustafi sold if he does not improve and we can then go and buy a partner for Sokratis.

This summer, Sokratis will be the only centre back coming in.


Mustafi the Monstrosity

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.