Arsenal have finally bagged themselves an established defender this summer after unveiling £35million Shkodran Mustafi as a Gunner.
Looking at Mustafi’s interesting career so far, it’s clear he hasn’t had everything handed to him on a plate, and on character alone he could be a significant addition to a squad so often lacking in leadership and bottle at the crucial moments.
Mustafi was one of Valencia’s most consistent performers last season and with injuries to Mertesacker and Gabriel, the 24-year-old German will have to bring that form to England if Arsenal are to challenge for the Premier League title.
Here are something fellow Gooners should know about our new signing
1. He was about to quit football in 2010
Arriving as a teenager, Mustafi found himself caught in the purgatory between reserve and first-team football, and it nearly drove him to give up the game he’d grown up playing on the street corners of Bad Hersfeld, an old manufacturing town in the heart of Germany.
He talked to Spox about his career earlier this year and said:
At the end of my time in England, I thought ‘wow, I’m only 20, and I’m already sick of football.
While Moyes has never spoken much of the defender’s departure, he is understood to have dismissed Mustafi because of his none-too-imposing physique. No wonder Moysy is at Sunderland now.
2. He traces his heritage back to Albania, similar to Granit Xhaka
Mustafi possesses a similar background as Arsenal’s other new signing Granit Xhaka. The 24-year-old was born to Albanian parents in Bad Hersfeld in central Germany. He also stated before the 2014 World Cup that he felt extremely connected to his country of birth. He said,
Albanian was always spoken at home and we ate Albanian food,
I feel more Albanian than German, even though I was born there, but there was never a question of playing for Albania.
So he would have no problem making friends here at Arsenal with Ozil, Mertesacker, Xhaka all there with him.
3. A towering presence with fast legs and sound mind
The way he can read a game is intoxicating, and instead of running in reckless to make a last-ditch tackle he will sit back and ensure his next move is the right one. We all saw how he stopped a certain goal from Olivier Giroud in the Euros. They surely will have a laugh about it in the dressing room.
His awareness is another notable thing, and with Arsenal lagging behind on the Premier League to defend set pieces well, Mustafi could add something really important.
Mustafi can’t work miracles but his physical presence, along with his ability to read the game will come in handy when having to put his body on the line for Arsenal.
4. Goal poacher
In two seasons with Valencia, Mustafi has bagged himself six goals and whilst that might not sound a lot it could be the difference between first and second.
With Mesut Ozil taking the set pieces it’ll give us a chance to see the two German’s linking up together, and you can almost guarantee him getting on the score sheet this season.
5. Has experience from all over the World
Germany, England, Italy and then Spain. Yes, he has played in all four leading football leagues in the world.
He began his career in the youth ranks of Hamburger SV and then moved to Everton. Two-and-a-half-years later, he left Everton to join Italian side Sampdoria. It won him a place in the Germany squad, a World Cup win and a move to La Liga where his growth continued.
Indeed, since arriving in Spain he leads La Liga in interceptions. This shows how he has evolved with time and all that experience he has inculcated, gives him a proactive approach in defending.
Those impressive interception stats obviously underline Mustafi’s footballing IQ, something Arsene Wenger loves in a player, but he is also athletic – making up for his height to be effective in aerial battles – and composed when in possession of the ball.
Born into the Bundesliga, passing through Serie A and La Liga, Mustafi returns to England today as a star. Let’s hope he brings with him all the luck Arsenal needs and we get ourselves a Premier League trophy.