Few central defenders in the history of Arsenal have been quite like Shkodran Mustafi.
That isn’t to say that Arsenal haven’t had a few stinkers in the Premier League, though. To name just a few: Mikael Silvestre, Igors Stepanovs, Pascal Cygan and Sebastien Squillaci. Although, a handful more could be added.
Producing some of the most abject defending the Emirates has seen from both home and away teams, he’s been the source of frustration beyond our wildest imaginations.
But he’s also been good. Which is why he’s quite unique.
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In terms of ‘outstanding’ performances, there a very select few, but dotted in and around his usual atrocious antics, there have been some solid enough displays. Your 7/10-type level.
Arguably being Arsenal’s most improved player towards the latter end of last season, when Mikel Arteta sought to rectify the seismic gap between the midfield and defence, there was (some) hope he could wrestle his way into first team contention under the Spaniard’s tutelage.
Injury ahead of the Gunners’ trips to Wembley brought with it a few sweaty palms, as the case for Mustafi being the best at the club at the time was fairly well backed.
Since he’s been sidelined, Gabriel Magalhaes has come in and looked remarkably assured, William Saliba is back from his loan, Rob Holding is here to stay and doing OK, David Luiz has won over some supporters with his mentoring role for the new boys and Pablo Mari is on the verge of being fit – Calum Chambers not far off.
I’ve left Sokratis out of that list since he will play little to no role this season – there is also potential for him to be shifted before October 5th – but even still, that’s six defenders for him to contest with. Kieran Tierney could also be thrown into the mix due helpful ability of being bloody good at everything.
From looking like he could be on the cusp of first team contention, his departure from north London now appears somewhat inevitable. As good as it would be to shift him on this window, the latest from the club is that he won’t be back to full training until sometime in October, making a sale all the more difficult.
With that in mind, a January move could be on the cards. With just one year left on his deal, the likelihood of him penning fresh terms diminishes with each day and commanding Gabriel display (rhyme!), and accruing any fee for him would be considered a huge bonus at this point. Softening the wage bill will be wholly welcome, too.
Talk of a return to Italy has been prevalent for a while, so it would be unwise to rule out a move entirely before the window shuts, even if it’d be a push. Speaking of pushing, there are few Arsenal fans who wouldn’t push him in the direction of a new club.
At the end of last season he went up in everyone’s estimations. Not for his own talent, mind you. When you’re the best of a bad bunch the outside perception and general expectation levels drop. Mustafi profited from that.
There is now no way back for the German, with his future to be decided either in less than two weeks, or just over two months from now. One of those where we’ll try and mentally block out how much he cost the club to sign.