Shkodran Mustafi joined Arsenal in the summer of 2016 for a huge £35 million fee from Valencia. The large price tag made a few fan’s eyes water, but at the time supporters figured the club was getting a centre-back worth the fee.
Fast-forward three years and it is obvious that Arsenal must sell the player.
Shkodran Mustafi: Time for Gunners to Cut Their Losses
At first, Mustafi seemed a decent buy. His best attribute has always been his aerial ability, both offensively and defensively, and fans really picked up on this. In fact, seeing how poor the Gunners were (and still are) at defending set pieces, buying a defender who is good in the air seemed a good idea.
However, the rest of Shkodran Mustafi’s game was fairly underdeveloped at the time. Due to the fact he was 24, that was a fact that could be digested. For example, he’s always been a decent tackler, averaging over two tackles per appearance throughout his Arsenal career. But, he also gives away a larger than usual number of fouls due to his inconsistency at tackling.
Whenever Mustafi goes to ground, there seems to be no middle ground. Either he makes a fantastic tackle and wins back possession or he gives away a silly free kick. This hasn’t improved over his nearly three seasons at the club.
His distribution is also just okay. The highest passing percentage he’s claimed at Arsenal is 86.2%, last season. This season, that statistic is 82.4% and in 2016/17 it was 82.7%. For comparison, no other Arsenal centre-back this season has a lower passing percentage than Mustafi’s best.
Shkodran Mustafi is not old, still just 26, but he seems to have regressed already. Most defenders peak around age 28-30, so it is possible that we haven’t yet seen the best from the German. However, it is difficult to believe that he will turn things around when looking at his statistics.
Mustafi has regressed in most every defensive statistic tracked by Whoscored. He makes fewer tackles, interceptions, clearances and blocks compared to a year ago. Shkodran Mustafi also has fewer tackles, interceptions and offsides than his debut season in an Arsenal shirt.
The only area in which he seems to have improved is being dribbled past, which is now less frequent than in the previous two seasons. He will also likely play more minutes and make more appearances this season than in the previous two, but that is not as important as other areas.
Poor Results Recently
As if all this wasn’t bad enough, the club has been worse recently when Mustafi plays. In 2019, Arsenal have played 19 matches across all competitions, winning 12, drawing one and losing six.
Of those 19 matches, Shkodran Mustafi has featured in some capacity in 14. Arsenal have won all five in which the German does not feature, including wins over Chelsea, Manchester United and Napoli.
Even when taking in the season as a whole, it is difficult to ignore the correlation between Mustafi playing and Arsenal playing poorly. In the 15 matches throughout the entirety of this season in which Shkodran Mustafi has not played, the Gunners won 11, drew two and lost another two. This is a winning percentage of 73.3% and a losing percentage of 13.3%.
In the 33 matches in which Mustafi has played this season, Arsenal have won 19, drawn five and lost nine. That is a winning percentage of 57.57% and a losing percentage of 27.27%.
Time to Sell
While correlation does not prove causation, the evidence is piling up against Shkodran Mustafi. His footballing abilities are fairly limited compared to his peers, he may be getting worse with age and Arsenal get worse results with him on the pitch.
To add to all this, the centre-back is also among the highest earners at the club, netting £90,000 per week. While the club could not possibly recoup the £35 million they shelled out to capture Mustafi, they must move him along not only to free room on the wage bill but also to free room for a different defender.
With Rob Holding set to return from injury in the summer and Calum Chambers returning from loan, there will be better options for Arsenal at the back. That is not even mentioning the possibility of purchasing a new centre-back.
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