Shkodran Mustafi had a great start to life as an Arsenal player, initially rejuvenating the back-four and forming a good partnership with Laurent Koscielny. But as the season moved forward, the £90,000-a-week German centre-half started to lose form and picked up a number of injuries which led to a disappointing campaign.
New Arsenal manager Unai Emery must now make a decision as to whether he will stick with the German World Cup winner or look for a replacement elsewhere.
Unai Emery is known for his ruthless decisions in picking his squad on matchday and is not fazed by the players’ emotions or loyalty to the club. He will be looking to create an Arsenal defence that is comfortable on the ball and quick to play them out of trouble.
Mustafi was to blame for a number of goals conceded this term. BBC’s Martin Keown and Sky Sports’ Nemanja Vidic were both critical of his performances against Southampton and Newcastle this season.
His defensive statistics aren’t really bad for a man who is responsible for a lot of goals conceded. Over the 25 appearances he made in the league this season, Mustafi averaged 2.4 tackles and 2.1 interceptions per game, which is better than most of the defenders but that does not really tell us the whole story.
Some would say that it is the system that should be blamed more than the man himself but he has failed to live up to the standards in both the 3-man and 4-man systems this season, often relying on Koscielny to clean up his mess.
Although that is not an excuse to make mistakes, it’s a reminder that the learning process for Mustafi may be a bit more dangerous than the learning process that Koscielny had.
Mustafi’s time seems to be running out with the defender being left out of the German national team for the upcoming World Cup in Russia. Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Matthias Ginter, Antonio Rudiger and Niklas Sule have all been named ahead of the Gunners defender.
He has been error-prone and has committed schoolboy mistakes that have led to goals. It is sometimes frustrating to watch him defend as he doesn’t stick to the basics.
The incident against Manchester City where Aguero scored after cleverly pushing the German was one such. Mustafi waited for the referee to blow the whistle instead of carrying on with the game and it was a horrible mistake.
Mustafi has to rectify his game to prosper and if he doesn’t, it is time for Emery to offload him and find a replacement.