Arsenal fans have their new dead horse in Shkodran Mustafi, but pinning any blame on him from Atletico Madrid is just plane wrong on so many levels.
Arsenal had everything under wraps and all anyone kept saying across the world was “don’t concede.” Another goal would be great, but no matter what, don’t concede. So, in typical fashion, the Gunners did the one thing they couldn’t do.
On an over-the-top ball (surprise!) Antoine Griezmann found himself one on one with Laurent Koscielny, the captain, who had been solid and stoic throughout the match. Koscielny, rather than punt the ball far away, or tap it out of play, tried to (I think?) flip it over his shoulder so he could turn and retain possession.
Instead, he flipped it into himself, fell, and Griezmann was one-on-one against David Ospina, who made the initial save, despite it slipping between his legs. As Griezmann recollected the ball, Shkodran Mustafi came blitzing in and, in trying to get in the way, slipped.
The ball still hit his knee, but he could not prevent the goal.
Naturally, and rightfully, Koscielny is weathering the majority of the blame, as it was his fault. It was a horrible, horrible defensive flub that I can’t stop seeing in my brain (please, God, make it stop).
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And yes, Mustafi’s slip looked bad. But what part of it was Mustafi’s fault? He was tracking back to be in position to help defend and he trusted Koscielny to tend to his own business. That is a fair thing to do. When Koscielny betrayed that trust and failed, Mustafi kicked it into another gear and clearly would have gotten back in time to face Griezmann one-on-one, which is all we can ask for, but in turning, he slipped, and water sprayed up from the pitch.
It was a slick spot. It happens. It’s a crying shame and so incredibly Arsenal that it happened where it did, but to blame Mustafi, who has been superb throughout, is criminal.
Mustafi was a stalwart throughout this match. He was never the liability that many fear he can be. He completed 97% of his passes, all of his longballs, never lost possession and led the team in defensive actions.
It was one of those matches where his proactive style was brilliant, as he utilized it to perfection.
Obviously you defend as a unit, meaning you succeed and fail as a unit. But everything was done correctly by Mustafi until he lost his footing. It sucks when that happens, but there wasn’t anything I would have had him rather do that was in his power to do.