November 2, 2017

Europa League Player Analysis: Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi – Thursday 2nd November

His injury secured Germany’s place at the 2018 World Cup

With Arsenal facing an important run of fixtures against the likes of Watford, Everton, Swansea City, Manchester City and a doubleheader vs. Red Star Belgrade in the Europa League, Shkodran Mustafi’s injury while away with Germany during the last international break certainly came at a shocking juncture.

Laurent Koscielny’s back and achilles issues only compounded Arsenal’s frustrating injury troubles at the back, but losing Mustafi in a dead rubber against Azerbaijan only added to Arsene Wenger’s angst.

Joachim Low’s assessment of his thigh injury didn’t bode well either, with the Germany manager believing he’ll be out of action for an extended period. “With Mustafi it seems that it is some muscle tear or some muscle fiber tear. In any case, it could force him to a longer break,” Lowe said.

Confirmation that the former Sampdoria and Valencia stopper could miss up to two months served as a huge blow to the shorthanded Gunners at the back, especially as Mustafi’s been a key component within Wenger’s back three.

Although he hasn’t always shown his best form in an Arsenal shirt, there’s no doubting he’s a quality center back, something he showed emphatically in his team’s 0-0 draw with Chelsea.

Possessing usually sound positioning, awareness and balance, the 25-year-old’s nous is a key factor towards his effectiveness. Moreover, his strength, more than adequate speed and aerial prowess further amplify what a challenging opponent he can be for any of his adversaries.

Being so selfless and willing to make the brave decision to leave his post and cover for a teammate, something he did extremely well when he partnered Nicolas Otamendi at Valencia, suitably illustrates his team-first approach. A real leader on the pitch, this has been another huge positive to be drawn since his £35 million arrival from Valencia.

“He is not a quiet guy who hides,” Wenger explained. “He speaks out with his opinion and communicates a lot. Even when you isolate the pictures of the game and look at how he speaks a lot during the game.

“What makes me positive is he is focused, has the desire to do well. He’s great in duels, one on ones and has developed well. Mustafi gives us a lot of stability.”

While Arsenal still has options to replace the adept ballplayer in the form of Per Mertesacker, Rob Holding and Calum Chambers, Mustafi’s loss is unquestionably a huge blow.

How Arsenal fare without their defensive warrior looked like it would be telling, but aside from the Watford defeat, they’ve managed pretty well. On the other side of the coin, thankfully his ailment wasn’t too severe, and he’ll be able to come back fit and firing after the next international break for their colossal clash with Tottenham on November 18.

Risking him in such a hotly contested contest might pose too greater risk for Wenger against Spurs’ exceptional frontline, but the fact he’ll be ready to help the Gunners over the busy Christmas and New Year period is undoubtedly a huge positive.

By @Licencetoroam

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