The German World Cup winner Shkrodan Mustafi came to Arsenal in a fanfare as the saviour of our new defensive line up, and with Rob Holding and Calum Chambers waiting in the wings to replace our ageing back line the future looked rosy. Obviously the youngsters have not yet lived up to the promise (they may yet do make that level) but the German was supposed to be the ready-made article to replace Per Mertesacker.
He started off very well, but he has admitted that it was very difficult to start with. “The Premier League is the most intense league in Europe or even in the world,” Mustafi told Arsenal.com. “I knew that before but now that I’ve played a lot of games, it’s just something that you feel. Your body feels really tired because you have a lot of games and it’s not used to it, so that shows you that the league is really intense.
“I think you grow. When I was younger and when I started to play in Italy and Spain, you always heard people saying, ‘It comes with experience’ but what is that experience? Why is everyone saying it?
“Then when you play in the Premier League alongside players who have won a lot of trophies or who have played a lot of games in the Premier League, they give you this kind of experience so you make less mistakes, you react differently to different situations. I would say that in the last year I’ve taken a lot of experience for myself.
“As a defender it’s really difficult to always do your job 100 per cent because it means that you have to do everything right. As soon as you do something wrong, it gives the other team an opportunity to score a goal, and then obviously it looks not so good.
“I’m working on being there when it really matter because you can lose a tackle or a duel, but to really be there when you have to, to deny the opponents’ opportunities, that’s what I’ve been working on.”
We all know that the German has made mistakes, but we also know that the Premier League is the hardest in the world. I remember when Laurent Koscielny arrived here from the lower French Leagues (and we will never forget that League Cup Final) but we must admit that he did grow into the role because he already had the talent as well as the confidence. So do you think that in the near future, maybe as early as next season, he will take over Koscielny’s mantle of being our defensive rock?
Or do you think he will never reach those heights?