Shkodran Mustafi has a year remaining on his future. Arsenal have a decision to make regarding his future, and there is only one right answer.
Shkodran Mustafi has endured a turbulent time at Arsenal, to say the least. He arrived for £35 million as the Gunners’ solution to their defensive problems. He would be the ideal replacement for Per Mertesacker alongside Laurent Koscielny, it was hoped.
And the first few months were very encouraging. He was excellent until Christmas, showing an aggressive streak to his defending that suited the modern game perfectly. However, as he settled into his role in north London, the mistake seeped in. Poor passes, sleepiness at set-pieces, dreadful attentiveness and poor marking.
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With every mistake that Mustafi made, his confidence cratered. And with his confidence depreciating at an alarming pace, the mistakes only piled up. By the end of his third season with the club, he had alienated the entire fanbase and was dropped from the team entirely. Unai Emery was desperate to sell.
Arsenal could not find a buyer, however, with most clubs baulking at their arrogance in requesting a decent portion of the £35 million they spent in return. Mustafi remained with the team, but only out of necessity. The emergence of Calum Chambers, Rob Holding and arrivals of Sokratis and David Luiz made him obsolete.
Then Mikel Arteta arrived. The Gunners suffered an injury crisis at the position and Mustafi was brought in from out of the cold. He made yet another horrendous error in a 2-2 draw versus Chelsea, which, in one fell swoop of an under-hit backpass, handed the Blues a penalty and sent David Luiz for an early bath. But from that very moment on, including the remaining 64 minutes of the Chelsea match, the German has been excellent and is now considered one of Arteta’s key lieutenants.
Mustafi enters the summer with a year remaining on a £90,000-per-week contract that vastly overestimates his value. He has just turned 28 and is in the prime of his career. Arsenal have a decision to make regarding his future, and given the up-and-down nature of his north London tenure to date, there is a wide range of opinions. However, in reality, there is just one right answer for Arteta: to move on.
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While Mustafi’s performances have been commendable of late and the uptick in form is a testament to his own resilience and Arteta’s coaching calibre, he, like many of the other ageing and predominantly underwhelming veterans in the squad, is not going to be a key part of the rebuild. He can’t be. His error-prone style limits his true value, while his age negates his long-term utility, especially when there are younger, higher-ceiling options waiting in the wings.
Now, there is a debate to be had whether Mustafi should be sold this year or allowed to play into the final year of his contract. While letting a player leave on a free is not always ideal, Arsenal would not exactly be forgoing a huge amount of money. Mustafi might fetch £15 million at absolute best. Selling is the more financially beneficial move, of course, especially when you add the saved wages, but Mustafi does carry value as a third-choice centre-back.
Nevertheless, either avenue provides the same resultant answer: Arsenal must move on from Mustafi. And that has been the case for some time.