Magalhaes is very like Mustafi, but hopefully without the brainfarts

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.

If not…

Agboola Israel


  1. A decently thought out article Agboola. I cannot go along though with the complimentary parts of your thoughts on Mustafi as I see little that is much use in him at all.

    I do NOT agree that he is dominant in the air- he is not tall for a CB and at best is adequate, not good at all, in the air. Bould and Adams were DOMINANT; Mustafi is a pale and much smaller shadow of them both. Perhaps you are too young to have ever seen in the flesh a proper dominant CB at our club.

    Since Sol Campbell, we have had only the “can’t run” Merts who was dominant in the air and he took about a hour to turn around, so slow was he!
    But, apart from your thoughts on Mustafi, I thought this a well written and sensible article.

  2. I,m afraid I do not share your assessment of Mustafi as a centre back.Fans of Valencia, and professionals employed by that Club could not believe that Arsenal would pay 35m for someone they described to me as a ropey defender.Nothing has happened during his time at Arsenal to suggest to me that they were wrong.He dives into tackles when he should stay on his feet, has little appreciation of when to activate the offside trap and last but not least he lacks composure.No, he has never been more than very average and is one of the many weak links in the squad inherited by MA.

  3. Without even signing yet , we have already start the not so good attempt to ridicule his first made error.
    Every player you highlighted in your write up have one time make costly errors that lead to their respective teams lose matches the difference in them dusting up and growing stronger is what happened after such mistakes, is it a pat on the back and words of encouragement to just let it go and focus on the next big performance to deliver in the next game or an epistemology of how we are so sure from unset that they are never good enough because it was said even before they sign, Through constant bulling, insult and character assassination.
    Whatever Gabriel turns out to be, a Maldini, canavaro, Cavalro, Campbell, Tony Adams,vidic,stam, mustafi,Ramos,pique,puyol or even a Gabriel like his own version of defender I WILL SUPPORT HIM ALL THROUGH TILL HE LEAVES OR RETIRE IN ARSENAL FC.

    1. In reply to Seroti
      Please read the article again. I think you have missed something by the looks of your rant.

  4. There are two parts to Mustafi, the error prone, calamitous defender under Emery and the One under Arteta who improved and impressed considerably under Arteta. Mustafi is dominant in the air due to his timing, the mistakes have drastically reduced under Arteta apart from his brainfart defending against Chelsea and the diving tackle on Kane when he was nowhere near ball or player. Mustafi problem is his mind, and Arteta recognises this and has worked on it with 75% success.

  5. When did Skodran Mustafi became “big”? When did he became “mobile”? When did he became “aggressive”? And when did this from the first day misfit became a “tackler”? He is definitely not a tackler in any meaning of the word. You must be taken him (Mustafi) for someone else. Don’t insult Gabriel Magalhaes like this. Please. He haven’t sign the contract jet! It’s like comparing the juvenile delinquent Harry Maguire with Henry Cooper or Joe Bugner.

    1. Be taking… haven’t signed??? Sorry. I am as lousy at English as the fraudster Bill Shaxper from Stratford-upon-Avon (who didn’t wrote a single of William Shakespeares plays).

  6. Great article. You obviously know what you are talking about.
    The first sensible analysis of Mustafi that I have read.
    I might add that part of the problem is that after the decline of Koscieleny started, he also did not have a partner who could cover.
    CBs need cover either from the other CB or from the holding mid. Arsenal lost both with the demise of Koscielney and Coquelin.
    It will be interesting to see how he fits in with the acquisition of Saliba and hopefully Gabriel.

  7. The big issue with Mustafi is that he is 6’0 and 75kg. Hes a TINY centre-back. The guy has great recovery tackles and is technically very good but he’s basically not mobile enough to be a fullback and not strong enough to be a great CB.

    This is why Gabriel is actually COMPLETELY different. He’s 6’3 and 86kgs. That makes a HUGE differnce, in boxing terms thats a Middleweight vs a Heavyweight.

  8. It was in a different sport– but a manager I played for and respected once made the statement about a player in our league– who was very Mustafi-like:

    “Jim is the best player in our league– from the shoulders down.”

    Mustafi requires a brain coach.

  9. @Ken
    This is not a rant , come on the guy has not yet officially signed and we are already drawing up negativity around him. If he wants to write about mustafi that’s fine why bring a person that has not kick a ball to compare him with.

    1. The writer said he was NOT like Mustafi. You seriously need to read the article before next comment…

      1. @Admin Pat, the article title alone states the opposite of your comment, “is very like Mustafi”.

  10. I feel this article overall was unfair to Mustafi and paints a negative portrait of Magalhaes – even though the player is yet to sign on the dotted line. I would also argue that not even the great Franz Beckenbauer himself could have avoided being exposed at AFC due to inadequate defensive cover in our midfield. In fact, AFC did not even know the meaning of team defense until MA took over.
    The article does not reference the essential skillsets that defenders need to possess today – composure on the ball and the ability to play through the high press. It would be interesting to study how many goals we scored and how many we conceded from pressing. I can also reference many examples where so-called great defender, including VVD and Ramos made many brainfarts, coughing up the ball under high intensity pressing – a consequence of playing out from the back.
    I take comfort knowing the Club is actively looking to improve defensive cover in the midfield and both Saliba and Magalhaes appear to have solid fundamental skills to further develop into top-class defenders.

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