Considering how bad Arsenal were defensively last season, it could take some radical methods required to get them to the desired level in time for the forthcoming campaign.
Well, here’s a radical solution for you – keeping Shkodran Mustafi.
Okay, so there may be a fine line between being radical and downright stupid, but taking a step back and looking at the big picture when it comes to the Gunners defence, there is certainly at the very least a credible argument to be made for retaining the services of the error-prone (and World Cup-winning) German.
Firstly, Mustafi was by no means the only weak link in the Arsenal backline last season. It’s easy to forget Laurent Koscielny’s horror-show against Southampton, Sokratis almost single-handedly destroying The Gunners’ European campaign and Bernd Leno being at fault multiple times during his first season between the sticks.
It’s not quite on the level of allowing Wilfried Zaha to sneak in behind you in a must-win game, nudging over an irrelevantly offside Harry Kane in the box or that incredible attempt of winning a foul off Sergio Aguero in a cup final – but the point is that people make mistakes.
The understandable worry would be that Mustafi’s mishaps are more errors of judgement rather than accidental blunders – but this is where the coaches should come in.
It should be on Unai Emery and his coaching staff if he continues to make mistakes of this nature. It’s almost more of a lack of education and game knowledge rather than an unsolvable cause. Is no-one helping him become a better player? If that’s the case, it’s no wonder his performances at the back have been consistently unconvincing.
Accidents happen all the time, but the sub-section of Mustafi’s misdemeanours can surely be coached out of him. The defender enjoyed something of a honeymoon period when he joined the Gunners in summer 2016, not losing a match until the end of January when in the Arsenal side.
But for whatever reason, his game has been plagued with defensive misfortune, though he has often popped up in big games with the odd goal, scoring in a North London derby and in last season’s Europa League knockout tie against BATE Borisov with the team in need of a result.
So Mustafi definitely provides some worth to the Gunners side, and at 27, he could only just be approaching his peak years as a footballer – and if anyone is going to improve next year, it is hard to argue against him being well-equipped to make the largest strides in that regard next season.
And with Arsenal yet to add to their defensive ranks, their best strategy may yet be getting the most out those not fulfilling their potential – i.e. Mustafi.
Meanwhile, the likes of Koscielny and Sokratis don’t have as much time on their side with both in their 30s, and the combination of a clean slate and a more concerted effort to maximising Mustafi’s capabilities will be the best way of squeezing the best out of himself and Arsenal’s defensive powers.
Signing for £36.9m, even in the scenario that Arsenal overpaid for him, there’s still reason to believe that the best is yet to come from Mustafi considering the vilification he has been subject to during his time as an Arsenal player.
So with a new season on the horizon, placing Mustafi in the last-chance saloon could be the radical solution to improving Arsenal’s fortunes at the back.