We Should Know that Mustafi Can Still Mustafi
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about Mustafi’s abilities as a player that seemed too harshly-worded and too critical of the player. Maybe it was (a lot of people certainly thought it was) but it was the culmination of three seasons worth of pent-up frustration at the on-field antics of the German. Mustafi was initially about to be an hero, being part of a 22-game unbeaten run under Arsene Wenger. Then it turned south and sour as quickly as a plate of beans.
Mustafi didn’t just made ordinary errors of the type that could be expected once in a while even from the most experienced defender, it was the call-your-mom-the-house-is-burning category errors. The more the errors, the less confident he got and the more the fans turned on him.
I had always pitied Mustafi. Sometimes the fans put all the responsibility for a team issue on him. He also didn’t help himself. But I was always of the opinion that everyone deserved a second chance to make things right.
The terrible back pass at Chelsea eventually broke me. Another Mustafian mistake. How could one player be so good at giving the opposition goalscoring opportunities? Even though he defended very well for the rest of the game and was responsible for nodding out that ball to Martinelli, I couldn’t quite forget what he had done or the fact that we had to play with ten men. Not when we were so down the table this season. Not when Arteta was trying to make something out of a stinking situation.
But as Xhaka and Ozil, two other scapegoats, improved dramatically under Arteta, I was also under the suspicion that Mustafi could do the same thing. In that article, I mentioned, “Arsenal might have an antidote these days, a secret potion to keep the night beast from appearing at a full moon. It is in the steely depths of Arteta’s eyes, a young talented coach that with the influence of a genius behind him. Mikel Arteta thinks that he can do the near-impossible: that he can kill all the malignant error-404 cells hiding beneath Mustafi’s sweat glands, an operation of such importance that it might require government assistance and huge media coverage.”
As I saw it, Mustafi’s confidence could be rebuilt if he had a string of games against weak opponents where the team dominated the ball. He would be less exposed and have less opportunities to commit a fatal mistake. I thought he was still a very good defender on his day, aggressive and capable of dealing with anything the opposition might throw.
“As long as Mustafi is at Arsenal, then it is appropriate that Arteta should attempt to coax the good out of him, to maximize his better side. That is the right thing to do. Maybe the Europa League games and the FA cup tie against Bournemouth are a clue as to the immediate use of the 27-year-old: maybe they show that Mustafi is less error-prone when his team is dominant with the ball and largely comfortable.”
I still believe in Mustafi. But at the end, he has to leave when the season is done and gone. Sometimes, some relationships are just not meant to be. He’s in his prime and there’s no better transfer moment than when he’s come good again, increasing his market value and protecting our investment in him. Because when all is said and done, Mustafi can still Mustafi. All it takes is one catastrophic mistake for everyone to realize he hasn’t turned his spots. We have to be firm and gentle. That’s the only way we can improve. Our World-Cup winning German defender is not the future but while he’s still here and playing, we are going to be behind him.