Gabriel Magalhaes: Another Redo of Mustafi? by AI
A big, mobile aggressive tackler who frequently wins his battles, is aerially dominant, and a great passer of the ball is coming to Arsenal. Is that Gabriel Magalhaes or Skhrodran Mustafi?
Mustafi, honestly, was supposed to be a great acquisition. We all know that he can be almost world-class for 85 minutes but always has one big error in him. Most aggressive-proggressor types CBs are usually not so error-prone.
This is what makes people like Van Dijk and Sergio Ramos so great. They have a perfect sense of timing and tactical awareness to go along with their physically imposing style of play. Usually, if the attacker they are marking is turned with his back to them, they can be very aggressive, making sure to not let them rest if they receive the ball. You need this type of defending to operate a high pressing defence.
Opponents who want to counter will have someone up top that they can throw the ball to. If you let this outlet operate, your team’s high line is at peril. Remember how David Luiz treated Giroud in the FA Cup Final? Exactly. Make them uncomfortable. Win the ball. Let your teammates recycle so that you can keep a sustained attacking system. So why is Mustafi so different from Van Dijk? Why is Otamendi, a similar aggressor, so error-prone?
One, for all their good passing, they still make frequent brainfart passes. The last example of Mustafi doing this was the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, where he passed to Tammy Abraham and got David Luiz sent off. Granted, you can’t always prevent an error like this but a general rule of thumb is that the better and more consistent your aggressor-type CB is at passing, the better you will like him. Bonucci, Ramos and Pique are perfect examples. They almost never make an error while passing. Van Dijk is almost as good, too.
But Otamendi and Mustafi still have very bad passes in them (despite being good passers) and that’s their problem.
Also, these kinds of defenders have to be mentally strong. To play a high line is risky. They must be utterly confident in their abilities to pressure a striker and throw him off. They must not be scared of all the space behind them. In other words, they must feel at home defending like that. Bayern Munich’s backline is a perfect example of this. Both David Alaba and Jerome Boateng are very comfortable at pressuring the opposition and retreating to cover space together.
In Mustafi, Arsenal got a “confidence player.” If he’s in form, he can be impervious, dominant, tackle-perfect. Remember the 22-Game unbeaten run when he first came in?
Once a mistake crops up, especially from an attacker having space to run into against him or just from a misplaced pass, his confidence drains and he becomes all muscle and no brains. He literally loses his head and just slides in as though he will win the ball when he can’t.
For elite aggressors like Ramos, they rarely make a bad pass to begin with. And if an attacker has space to run into with the ball against them, they are discerning enough to know not to immediately rush in. Basically, in the heat of the moment, they remain in control, calm and capable.
In the Champions League this season, Bayern Munich have had Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappé and Neymar run at their backline. They retreated together as unit, eating up space and forcing them to commit to an action around the edge of the box.
This is the exact type of a situation where Mustafi loses his marbles.
There is an argument that had Mustafi slotted into an elite team, he would have had less problems. Maybe. But we see a similar situation with Nicolas Otamendi at Man City, an aggressor type CB with similar mental issues.
Gabriel Magalhaes signing is another attempt at signing our own defender that would allow us to play a high line comfortably. Gabriel is younger than when we bought Mustafi. He’s 22, one of the best passers and tacklers among defenders in Ligue 1. He wins aerial contests for fun and is less aggressive than Mustafi. If Gabriel comes good, then Mikel Arteta can play expansive, high-stretch football.