Arsenal’s defense put forth a tremendous effort to stifle Wolverhampton at the Molineaux, and Shkodran Mustaf had a big part to play in that.
Arsenal didn’t just win against Wolverhampton, they put together a fantastic defensive effort with a defense composed of questionable defenders and kept a clean sheet with relative ease. What chances the defense did give up were snuffed out by Emi Martinez.
But you can track back one massive success to the defending of Shkodran Mustafi. The German defender has had one hell of a resurgence under Mikel Arteta, and while the first couple minutes against Wolves left much to be desired from Mustafi, the next 25ish minutes were sheer brilliance.
So brilliant, in fact, that at the first water break, Nuno Espirito Santo decided that his star man Adama Traore should be moved to the other side of the pitch because he wasn’t finding any purchase matched up against Shkodran Mustafi.
Go ahead and process that—Mustafi played so well that Wolverhampton had to move Traore away from him in order to get him involved in the match. Essentially, Mustafi scared him away.
Mustafi’s effectiveness didn’t end there, however. For the entire match, Wolves found zero space on that left hand side. And while Traore did start to find success and space matched up against Sead Kolasinac on the opposite side, a one-sided attack is rarely going to do any damage and, thanks to Mustafi—and Cedric Soares, for that matter—Wolves had a woefully one-sided attack.
And that attack found no goals. Or any real threats either.
Later on in the match, Santo attempted to create something on that left-hand side by introducing the deadly Diego Joto. Although, to the unbiased onlooker, you might not have even known that Joto was on the pitch because Mustafi did the same thing to Traore as he did to Joto—he stowed him safely in his pocket and didn’t let them see the light until the final whistle blew.
Shkodran Mustafi is 28-years-old. He has s speckled past, but also one riddled with injuries. It is very possible that we still have a good defender in this guy. Even if I’m a little leery to wholly commit to that sentiment yet.
That said, Mustafi has pocketed individual men before. Diego Costa, anyone? Mustafi has a history of being able to lock down special attackers. That kind of takes a special defender.