Arsenal did not put their best foot forward against Tottenham and Shkodran Mustaf was a guilty party. But dial back those damning indictments.
The North London Derby turned out to not be the kind of match we want to think about for long, but indulge me while I do my usual defending of an Arsenal player who has been unfairly singled out and condemned to a familiar fate.
Shkodran Mustafi did not have his best match against Tottenham. Not by a longshot. Neither did Sead Kolasinac and neither did David Luiz. This defense looked far worse than they had been looking against Wolverhampton, against Sheffield, against Leicester—all quality sides that they did quite well against.
Seemingly forgotten because of what happened against Tottenham. Just like that, fans are singling out Mustafi and demanding his immediate removal from the side and sale this summer.
Don’t fall into the old trap of scapegoating. We’re better than this. We’ve been through so much learning that should have taught us that these overreactions aren’t beneficial in any way to any person.
Shkodran Mustafi has been nothing short of tremendous under Mikel Arteta. He’s been exemplifying the fee we paid for him, showcasing his physical ability and cutting back on the mistakes almost to the point of complete eradication.
I’ll admit, he had one slip-up against Leicester. In a match when he was tremendous throughout, pocketing Jamie Vardy, he had one mistake where he reacted a split-second too slowly and that robbed us of two points.
Against Spurs, he had many positive moments, closing down attackers that got too near the box, but on the whole, he didn’t live up to the pressure and wasn’t able to stand up to a Spurs attack that has looked so tame in recent weeks.
That doesn’t mean that Mustafi is his same old self.
Fun fact, just because he’s improving and finding his consistency doesn’t mean that he is invincible. The same way that Virgil van Dijk isn’t. Every defender—every player—is going to have off days and Mustafi had one. Don’t discredit all of his tremendous work tracking back to January because of one bad day. That’s irresponsible.
I’m not saying that Mustafi is the answer to fix this defense, but if you’ve witnessed this transformation at all, you should know that he is a viable defender. Someone who has a place in this team. But he’s going to make mistakes, get real.