With Arsenal light in defence, they need to act quickly to secure the services of an experienced enforcer.
In recent days Arsene Wenger has bemoaned a lack of preparation and fitness, and now he has defensive issues on his mind.
With Rob Holding just in from Bolton and Per Mertesacker and Gabriel out injured for significant periods of time, Arsenal need experience along the back row.
Wenger this week responded to mounting fears over his inexperienced, injury-hit rearguard by saying: “It’s important to spend money but it’s more important to spend it the right way.”
Mertesacker is currently sidelined through injury and is not expected to return to fitness until the end of the year. Despite the injury, Arsenal used their official Twitter account to announce that the 31-year-old had been appointed captain by Wenger.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) August 13, 2016
And so, Wenger’s attention has turned towards another German. Shkodran Mustafi played for the world champions during their recent European Championship campaign and his name is now being widely linked with a move to north London.
But who is the German central defender?
The Arsenal target is now currently in talks with a number of different clubs, according to the defender’s father and agent, Kujtim Mustafi, when at one time it looked likely that the Gunners were the only suitor in for him.
The 24-year-old Valencia centre-back’s future has been the subject of intense speculation this summer and is widely expected to leave the Mestalla before the transfer window closes. In fact, it is speculated that the Spanish side need to sell their player – they are way above current FFP guidelines and are at risk of knock-on effects.
Wenger clearly values Mustafi, who played 42 times for Valencia last season, but it remains to be seen whether his value lines up with the La Liga side – a state of affairs that’s cost the Frenchman many a player in the past.
The Germany international has been capped 12 times and was born in Germany to an Albanian family. His early career took him to Everton.
In May 2009, Mustafi joined the Merseyside club initially being assigned to their academy team. He later stated that “Goodison Park feels like home“, and many suspected that he’s graduate to the senior ranks.
Mustafi made his debut on 16 December 2009, in a 0–1 home loss against BATE Borisov in the UEFA Europa League. He was also named on the bench for the Premier League matches against Arsenal and Manchester City in the following January. The defender only appeared on the bench nine times over the next two campaigns and didn’t played in any further matches.
And so in January 2012, he moved to join Italian side Sampdoria on a free transfer.
After two years in Italy, the defender was on the move again to La Liga side Valencia, signing a five-year deal for an undisclosed fee.
Although slightly better than Wenger’s current options, some pundits in the Spanish press think that the fee sought by Valencia is far too high for a player that is adequate at best. However, Wenger is desperate and time is ticking.
Mustafi is good at marshalling his defence with poise and prowess. An intelligent player who reads the game and is calm, composed and appears unruffled, he’s an efficient and effective defender and a definite fit for a Wenger team.
Whether Arsenal will meet Valencia’s valuation or the La Liga side relax and move closer to Wenger’s ceiling is still undecided, but until the two clubs agree a deal, Wenger still has problems in defence.