Arsenal’s defense has tried so hard to grow away from Shkodran Mustafi, but it’s time to go all in on the German and abandon your misgivings.
Ever since Mikel Arteta took over at Arsenal, there’s been one undeniable change that many of us can’t quite wrap our heads around—how he’s made Shkodran Mustafi and David Luiz look not just competent, but really good.
Most especially Mustafi, who has spent years being abused by Arsenal fans for his individual mistakes. Countless times we moaned and groaned that he was even on the pitch, forgetting that when he first arrived, he was actually so good that he went 19 straight matches without losing as long as he was in the starting XI.
Still, even with his resurgence under Mikel Arteta, I’ve been hesitant to abandon my misgivings that he was a changed man. Not by choice, mind you, but by necessity. My brain takes a lot of convincing to trust someone or something that has let me down before.
Not anymore. Shkodran Mustafi has been simply incredible since the restart. As David Luiz has floundered a bit, shaking our faith in his resurgence, Mustafi has done the opposite, continuing to prove how incredibly useful he is, both in a centerback pairing, and as a right-sided centerback in a back three.
Against Leicester City, I started to see him doing things that normally would have driven me nuts or caused me to have a conniption and/or aneurysm. The way be would bombard into the midfield to defend higher up the pitch, the speed with which he would hone in on the nearest opposing player.
These are the same antics that left him grasping at straws during the dark days of the Mustafi era.
But they aren’t so bad anymore. In fact, it’s part of what makes him so convincing and special. These players he’s closing down aren’t getting around him or through him. He’s just plain stopping them. Part of that is undoubtedly a greater defensive shape all around, to defend around him, but seeing how much this system has benefited him is nothing if not inspiring. And for the first time, I am ready to fully invest in Shkodran Mustafi again.
I encourage you to do the same. It may feel unnatural, but Mustafi is a great defender who, in time, could grow to even more. I am thrilled to have him on this team for the first time since his first season.