I watched the Crystal Palace game with a friend, and before we saw Zaha’s goal, he received a message. It just said: “Mustafi”… We proceeded to watch in horror as the German centre-back attempted to shield the ball back to the goalkeeper – failing badly and allowing the Palace player to put them back into the lead. Since then, he has received death threats and a cursory search of his name on Google will bring up page after page of articles lamenting how poor the £35 million signing is, or how often he makes mistakes. In truth, I have to disagree.
Let’s set the record straight, Shkodran Mustafi is not a good enough player for Arsenal Football Club. I do not believe he has the qualities to play elite Premier League football. But he was good enough for Germany’s 2014 World Cup winning squad, and Arsene Wenger was convinced to spend that much money bringing him over from Spain.
His defensive abilities are best noted in aerial duels. People are quick to point out that he conceded the penalty away at Tottenham, but forget that we all agreed it should never have been given. People remember Arsenal collapsing at Southampton to lose 3-2, conceding three sloppy goals and eventually conceding to a header after Leno came for a ball and missed it. They forget Mustafi didn’t play that day and his absence was felt.
Much like the maligned Granit Xhaka, people seem quick to ascribe full blame to the German centre-back. I have read several reviews of the game which excoriate Mustafi and blame him for all three of Palace’s goals. What nonsense! Jenkinson plays Benteke onside for the opener – Mustafi’s line is good and would have caught the Belgian offside. For the third, it is shambolic defending from a corner – from all defenders. Mustafi is as much to blame as everyone else in that penalty area for letting the play develop as it did.
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