Shkodran Mustafi: Player Profile
Posted by Aaron C-Reid | Published on August 31, 2016
After an indifferent transfer window for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger, the Gunners have finally signed German defender Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia. The central defender has joined for a fee in the region of £35 million, including add-ons. Mustafi has added much-needed experience in the heart of Arsenal’s defence after injuries to Gabriel and fellow German, Per Mertesacker. Mustafi will likely slot straight into Arsenal’s back four after the international break but is he the right man for the job?
Name: Shkodran Mustafi
Place of birth: Bad Hersfeld, German
Position: Central Defender
Similar to another Arsenal newcomer, Granit Xhaka, Mustafi was born into an Albanian family. He had brief stints in the youth setups of 1. FV Bebra, SV Rotenburg and Hamburg SV before joining Everton in 2009. He rejected offers from Manchester City and Newcastle to move to Merseyside, although only made one appearance for the Toffees, playing 15 minutes in a Europa League tie in December 2009. This was to be his only appearance in his 3-year stay in England.
Mustafi left Everton in 2012 to join Italian team, Sampdoria, on a free transfer. He went on to make 53 appearances for the Italian outfit playing a key role in the heart of Sampdoria’s defence. After impressing in his two years in Italy Mustafi attracted attention from a host of European clubs, including Valencia. After holding talks with the Spanish side he eventually joined in August 2014 for a fee rumoured to be in the region of €8 million.
Mustafi enjoyed two very successful campaigns in Spain, making 72 appearances for Valencia in his two-year spell at the club. After becoming an integral part of the side, Mustafi went on to captain Valencia on several occasions. He was held in very high regard in Spain and after completing a £35 million deal yesterday he will add much-needed experience to the Gunner’s youthful defence.
Mustafi is known for being an intelligent defender, with his positional sense and ability to read the game some of his best assets. In his first interview as an Arsenal player, he referred to his time in Italy as a key point in his career, stating that it vastly helped improve his tactical awareness. This is clear to see as he made more interceptions (226) than any other player in the last 2 La Liga seasons. His ability to cut out dangerous passes will work well with Laurent Koscielny as the Frenchman registered 102 interceptions last campaign, the 3rd most in the English top flight.
With Arsenal being criticised in previous seasons for being “too soft” Mustafi should help put this concern to bed. The German international made 51 tackles last season, according to Opta, the same number of tackles Koscielny and Mertesacker made between them. Combining this with the fact he received 13 yellow cards in La Liga last term he clearly isn’t afraid to get stuck in. He even commented on this, stating: “Right now I would say that I’m quite an aggressive player. I go into everything, that’s what I learnt in England.”
He suits Arsenal’s possession-based system well as he loves to play from the back, achieving an 89% pass accuracy last year, combining this with his no nonsense attitude he appears to suit the Premier League down to a tee. While the German is known for being a ball playing defender he also defends traditionally, ranking in La Liga’s top 10 for blocks and clearances last season, two statistics that are music to Arsenal fan’s ears.
Where does he fit in?
The North London club have been crying out for a new partner for Koscielny in recent years after Per Mertesacker has endured a tough time in previous seasons and Gabriel Paulista has failed to impress many of the Gunner’s faithful after his switch from Villarreal in 2015. Mertesacker has been lamented for his lack of speed by a great deal of fans and Mustafi certainly offers a huge upgrade in this department. He will offer support for Hector Bellerin on the right-hand side of Arsenal’s defence as he likes to patrol the channels. This will give Bellerin more freedom to roam forward as the Spaniard likes to overlap Theo Walcott and swing crosses into the box.
Some questions may be raised to his height as he stands at 6ft, the same as his new partner Koscielny. While he may not match Mertesacker’s gigantic 6ft 6in stature he is still strong in the air. Stats from last season show he is a solid operator in the air, winning 73 percent of his aerial duels in La Liga last term, a better percentage than both Koscielny and Gabriel managed in the Premier League.
While Mustafi is still young he has an abundance of experience under his belt at both international and club levels already. The 24-year-old made his international debut in May 2014 and was subsequently called up for Germany’s world cup winning squad in the summer of 2014. He is rated as the third best centre back for Die Mannschaft, a feat all the more impressive when you consider the two ahead of him are Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels.
Mustafi has now been capped 12 times for his country and made 3 appearances in the recent European championships, as well as grabbing his first international goal against Ukraine in Germany’s opening game. With the Arsenal back line needing experience at the highest level Mustafi should be an excellent acquisition for the North London side.