After the performance of Arsenal in their opening Champions League game, there has been several questions asked of the team and indeed the manager by many. It was an absolutely ridiculous team selection to start with which led to the on field problems. The level at which some of the player’s performed, were also shocking, to say the least. One of those players who degraded their reputation on the night was new signing Shkodran Mustafi.
French daily L’Equipe in their player ratings gave the defender a score of 2/10! The points handed out (or the lack of it) to the German was a bit over the top but he was really poor on the night, which led many fans to consider if Holding could have done a better job against the same opposition or not.
Mustafi was brought in to specifically provide the steel and continuity Arsenal’s defence need at the moment. Per Mertesacker has done very well even with his lack of pace alongside Koscielny in the previous years. Although Mertesacker was never considered to be the ideal pairing, he was the best option available at the club with the manager refusing to dip into the transfer market for reinforcements.
When Wenger bought a defender in the form of Gabriel Paulista, fans were sceptical but interested to find out what he can offer. Gabriel actually had a great debut against Everton but his lack of consistency and lack of polish in tackling showed us that he is still not ready to face the firing line or be considered as the poster boy of the Gunners’ defence in the near future.
The fans and critics cried out for somebody with a big reputation and experience every year to be added to the squad until finally this summer, apart from acquiring Rob Holding from Bolton Wanderers, Wenger decided to pay some serious money for Germany international Shkodran Mustafi.
Having excelled in the La Liga for a side like Valencia, who are not particularly known for their defence, he was a great indication of the quality of the defender. Statistics showed that Mustafi made the most interceptions of any La Liga defender since he joined Valencia, reflecting his reading of the game and anticipation while having spent 3 years at Everton was appealing over the fact that he won’t have problems settling in England.
With two defenders bought, it was a strange transfer window from a Gooner’s perspective but the excitement has quickly turned out to be a concern for many with the displays of Mustafi so far.
Youngster Rob Holding, on the other hand, looked like an exciting prospect showing his talent when paired with the experienced Koscielny in a couple of games in the Premiership. Holding, without a doubt, is a fantastic signing as he looks to be a player who can develop into a really strong centre-back. The Englishman will also get plenty of opportunities this season as with the added pressure and competitive edge, rotating the squad from time to time would be on the agenda of Wenger as well.
Nevertheless, Mustafi still should be the first choice pairing with Koscielny and will show his class once he gets a bit set and more acquainted with his teammates in defence. It is not the time to panic, the early season jitters would soon be over and I firmly believe that Koscielny alongside Mustafi can provide the defensive solidity Arsenal have been craving for a long time now with an equally talented player in Rob Holding on the bench as cover.
Arka Tarun Mukherjee
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