Tag Archives: shkodran

Sokratis – Just What We Needed

Arsene Wenger’s final season in charge was blighted by poor form, which led to his lowest ever finish as Arsenal boss.

This was a symptom of a brittle weakness that saw us carved open by teams who smelled blood, pouring from our soft underbelly. Teams who had no right, on paper, to destroy us in the manner that they did.

It was our defence, from monitoring runs in midfield through to naive offside traps, woeful zonal marking and a general lack of organisation. This was the culprit that saw Wenger’s reign end in such circumstances.

The very same players are available to Unai Emery in his first match in charge. Both men couldn’t be more contrasting in their approach, and one thing that can fill us with optimism is the Spaniard’s dedication to looking at our opponents.

Still, all the video’s in the world looking at the minutiae of another team’s attack won’t be of any use if the personnel expected to act on Emery’s commands are inept.

Laurent Koscielny is 32 and will be out for the first half of the season through injury.

Shkodran Mustafi has strengths, but in terms of organisation and maintaining concentration he very much failed last season.

Konstandinos Mavropanos looks a real steal, but has made just a handful of appearances. A dip will come, and we don’t know when, how long it will last, or what it could cost us. One for the future.

Rob Holding had a fantastic debut season, but last season showed how far he still has to go before he makes it. Looks increasingly likely to go on loan to get the first team games he needs.

Then there is Calum Chambers. The England prospect looked to be on borrowed time until the latter half of last season, but Chambers excelled when called upon, and an extended contract is a symbol of the faith placed upon him. He looked to be the chosen one to lead this defence forward – but if he is, he’ll have to wait until next season after going on loan to Fulham for the campaign.

Sokratis at former club BVB

Sokratis Papastathopoulos is a recruit straight from the contacts book of a certain Sven Mislintat. The former Dortmund man is a seasoned veteran in terms of seasons spent in the top flight, having been with BVB for five seasons. Before that, he was at Werder Bremen for three seasons.

Interestingly, he was at AC Milan for two seasons, having been bought after impressing at Genoa. He made just five appearances in two years at the San Siro however, but what it does show is that he has experience from different leagues, which only serves to highlight why he will be so important.

Sokratis is now thirty years old. It means he will be our first choice centre back for probably a maximum of three to four years. What he can teach Holding and Mavropanos though, is invaluable. He has the potential to be a real hit in the teaching stakes, and the kids could soar next to such a grizzled warrior.

Sokratis is aerially strong and isn’t too rash either, something we can level at a host of other defenders in our past, and perhaps in our present. The partnership with Mustafi perhaps has shades of Campbell and Toure about it, with each defender performing different tasks. While Mustafi may not have the pace of Toure in his pomp, he is more than athletic, and is no slouch, as shownoften in recovering some messes he created himself in his time with us.

Sokratis has the physical edge we have been looking for, and he also is one who knows the seedier part of the game, a cynical slant, which will wipe the happiness from strikers faces, as opposed to before when they held no fear.

This signing is exactly what we need. Sokratis may only have a limited amount of miles on the clock, but if used right, and with the right partner, this could be a stroke of genius from our recruitment team.

Arsenal 2-0 tottenham – What Power Shift?

What power shift?

Much of the talk before this game kicked off was centred on how tottenham were now the rulers of North London, but a powerhouse Arsenal performance served a reminder to our neighbours that one season of finishing above us after 21 of being in our shadow doesn’t constitute a shift in power.


Our side were far superior to spurs in every position during the 90, and Pochettino lost his first derby in the process. Wenger went for Lacazette to start alongside Alexis and Ozil in a front three and this attacking trio was key in how we put spurs to the sword. The attacking three were full of intent and running, tracking back and pressing and some really lovely touches.


It was our midfield that really had a point to prove though, and they gave everything to the cause. Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka left it all on the pitch and strangled the life out of their spurs counterparts, Dembele and Sissokho. At both ends of the pitch, our engine room were on the pulse.


Shkodran Mustafi passed a recent fitness test to earn a recall to the side, and the German repelled everything spurs could muster, which wasn’t much. From the opening exchanges, we bossed every area of the pitch and Petr Cech was pretty much untroubled aside from a squirming Eriksen low shot that struck the outside of the near post.


This game didn’t feel like one of those games where we have untold amounts of possession and chances, only to flounder. It was our intensity that was troubling spurs, and they couldn’t keep up.









The deadlock was broken on the 36th minute. Alexis was found, being marked tightly by Davidson Sanchez. The Chilean headed past the spurs man and the defender put his arm across Alexis before having a slight tug of his Arsenal jersey. Mike Dean, rather surprisingly, gave us the decision and from the resulting set-piece, a perfect delivery from Mesut Ozil was met by Mustafi, who jumped higher than anyone to float a wonderful header past Lloris.


We didn’t have to wait long for the second and for our dominance to come to fruition. Alexandre Lacazette was actually given the ball in the channel with space to run into for once, and the Frenchman ate up the yards before finding Alexis with a low square pass. Alexis had plenty to do, but a great first touch allowed him to squeeze a high shot into the net and give Lloris no chance.






Half time came and went and although spurs were afforded more possession, the script was very much the same. Cech was still just as untroubled, we still had our boot firmly on spurs’ neck. Subs came and went around the 60-70th minute, but it changed nothing. No matter what Pochettino tried, our men on the field had the answers.


It was so refreshing to see us reach what is near our capabilities. So often we are bested thanks to our own inefficiencies, but not this time. For the whole game, we were at it all over the pitch. All of our players were on form and wanted this win – if we had failed to win this then a big gap would have been the result, even at this early stage of the season.


We weren’t finished either. Alexis could have grabbed another, and Alex Iwobi shot wide from a good position, sandwiching an Eric Dier header that produced a fingertip save from Cech – and that was the nearest that spurs were to come to registering a goal.


With this sort of display, frustration as well as joy can spring forth. Why can’t we do this more often? If we could do this for even 20 out of the 38 games, then we would be unstoppable. If we think like this though, we will never enjoy any moment. We know what we can do, all we can do though, is hope.


Spurs were bested, we pressed better than they did, we attacked quicker, we defended stouter. Their fans needed a reminder of where they actually stand in football after getting ahead of themselves recently.


We also needed a reminder. We needed to see our team show that not only can we produce displays of this nature still, but we can still want it more than our opponents.


Well played Arsenal – this was so good to see. #UTA

Shkodran Mustafi – The Thinking Man’s Defender

Originally posted on Goonersphere

Shkodran Mustafi has earned his former club a decent sum via the defender’s transfer to Arsenal, and while there are mitigating factors to the high transfer fee, it should not overshadow what a special player we have signed.

The figure is a reported £35million, and Valencia were always going to hold out for the maximum amount. The Spanish club are in dire straights in regards to their fiscal situation, and despite their wishes to hold on to the German, a large amount of numbers on a cheque was always going to be the answer they were looking for.

With Mustafi also being 24, it means he can provide a stable foundation for many years to come. 

The German international is of course a World Cup winner, which addsa certain lustre to his name, but he did so playing on the right of the defence. His versatility is another string to his bow, as he is just as comfortable in either position. 

The man with the name that cannot fit into a chant can boast of a wealth of experience, which at such a young age is a huge asset over defenders of the same age. Mustafi started in the youth systems of Germany, but an early move to Everton – where he made a single substitute appearance – and subsequent transfers to Sampdoria and Valencia have given him a baptism to all styles of football. His spell in Italy in particular, where defending is an art form, will be of particular use.

His experience, his versatility, all make a huge difference. Another tick in the box is his exemplary technique. There are a host of videos on Youtube which showcase the German’s deft touch, juggling the ball with all parts of his boots and making it look simple. Not exactly in the typical defenders skillset – aside from Laurent Koscielny of course (who can forget his skill and rabona finish from twenty odd yards in a warm up last year?).

Mustafi you see, is more of your modern-day cerebral defender. The monolithic sentry-type of defender still exist, and the best partnerships are often a mix of the two, but Mustafi isn’t a tackle merchant. 

He is strong in the air, but what is most apparent is that there isn’t a weakness in his armour. He can deal with all types of threat, from the speedster on his shoulder to the target man with the flailing elbows. Physical battles, a flat dash to a loose ball – all of these situations Mustafi can, and has, dealt with succinctly.

He is the perfect successor to the aging Mertesacker. Our very own BFG still has much to offer, but his heir apparent is in the same mould as his fellow German. Both have excellent positioning and can quell threats with a simple movement, rather than a madcap reactionary run. With Mustafi also possessing adequate pace, we have potentially a Mertesacker 2.0.

Which should be excellent news for Koscielny, who formed the other half of one of our better partnerships in recent years – but also us fans.

With Koscielny and Mustafi in the centre of our defence, we have a bedrock to build on, and even when we have committed more men forward than we should have, with those two at the back, we will be on surer footing than in previous years.

We really can now boast of a defence worthy of a title tilt. Shkodran Mustafi is worth every penny if he can show why he was in last seasons LaLiga Team of the Season as part of a struggling Valencia side.

Shkodran Mustafi – German Defender Finally Signs For Arsenal

Arsenal finally announced the capture of Shkodran Mustafi, and the German could be the long term answer to our clubs defence.

click for official story

Whether you agree with Arsenal’s transfer methods or not, the signing of defender Shkodran Mustafi must be taken as a signal of intent. 

The German international has officially put pen to paper on a five year deal, and the £35m signing has the pedigree to go with the mammoth transfer fee.

At just 24 years old, the full German international is more than the stereotypical astute German defender, and his experience in his relatively short career give him an edge over many.

Here are some things you may not know about Mustafi, and why we Gooners can look forward to an assured presence at the back.

Mustafi is a former Toffee

Yup. Starting his career at Hamburg SV, he was snapped up by Everton in 2009 and played for their youth team for three years, and making one substitute appearance for the first team in that time. It means he will have an advantage regarding acclimatising to the fast paced Premier League, and can hit the ground running.


He has played in Italy, England and Spain

Leaving Everton for Sampdoria for a mere £64k, he went on to make 53 appearances in his time with the Italian club, which attracted Valencia to shell out just shy of £7m for his signature in the summer of 2014. Testing himself against a wide variety of opposition, and being able to settle in to life in different countries, means that Mustafi possesses a mental toughness which will be invaluable as a defender.In fact, he is the only German World Cup winner never to have played in the Bundesliga.


He can fill in at Right-Back

Mustafi earned the greatest accolade of his career – the World Cup in 2014 – largely being played out of position. Primarily a centre-back, he gained worldwide recognition slotting in on the right of Germany’s defence. A pretty valuable asset given our woeful injury record year after year!


He isn’t simply a defender, he’s far more than that

Type his name into the video section of your search engine, and there are a plethora of montages showing our new German displaying some rather excellent ball-juggling. He certainly possesses more than just a clearance, and playing out from the back is certainly within his skillset. For Valencia, especially last season, his coolness under pressure was tested to the max as his side struggled at times, but Mustafi performed well. 

There are many other parts that make up the defender, but those above are relevant as to how he will benefit our side. He is known to be good friends with Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker, and solidarity amongst his teammates cannot be underestimated. 

His price tag may be an albatross around his neck, but so far, nothing seems to have been too tough a challenge, from moving countries to learning new tactics implemented by the variety of coaches he has worked under. 

What has been noticed in his time at Valencia, is that technically he is sound, but he is not the shouty leader that many central defenders evolve into – although he certainly lets his teammates know about their errors if needs be! He showed enough to earn the captaincy temporarily for the Spanish team, so he can adapt if the need arises. 

So, we have acquired a young, talented World Cup winner who has experience playing in top leagues and can immediately make an impact upon the team. Shkodran Mustafi may be a masterstroke in the transfer market and he has the potential to be a cornerstone of the side for many years.