Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Mustafi: Big player mentality will help us execute Emery vision

Shkodran Mustafi believes Arsenal will iron out their defensive hiccups and hopes the squad’s collective ‘big player’ mentality will help them implement Unai Emery’s new style of football.

It’s fair to say the Gunners defence has looked somewhat shaky at the back in our opening four games of the season with lapses in concentration contributing to the conceding of seven goals.

Set pieces – as was the case during Arsene Wenger’s era – continue to cause us problems, while the attempt to build play using Petr Cech and a new centre-back pairing has drawn more attention than usual to the technical limitations of certain players.

For all that, Mustafi remains bullish that Arsenal will get it right.

“It’s a process,” he told Arsenal Player. “We have tried everything in pre-season but then when you make a mistake in pre-season it’s not that bad.

“In the Premier League you don’t want to make those mistakes, but you have to show your personality because we are a big football club with big players.

“We have to show the personality that we can play from the back because that’s our football and that’s how it suits us to play.

“We just have to keep working on that. Hopefully, in a few games, we’re going to look a bit more comfortable.”

Mustafi was speaking after the 3-2 win against Cardiff, in which he opened the scoring with a bullet header from a Granit Xhaka corner. Like the midfielder, Mustafi is of Albanian heritage and he opted to celebrate his goal by making the sign of the Albanian double-headed eagle with his hands.

FIFA fined Granit Xhaka and Stephan Lichtsteiner for making the gesture during a match between Switzerland and Serbia at the World Cup (it was deemed politically inflammatory in light of tensions between ethnic Albanians and nationalist Serbs in Kosovo), however, the FA have confirmed that Mustafi will not face disciplinary action.

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For one brief moment, I thought Mustafi was going to try and get bfg to blind Emery


Not sure it suits our play to be playing out from the back, see Cech. Hopefully we’ll get better over time.


Still would like to see Leno at least get a chance in goal, and not just in the games outside the PL.


I for one am really surprised that professional goalkeepers have trouble playing passes with their feet.

A Different George

Don’t be so amazed. This week, Allison, the [now second-] most expensive keeper in history, Brazil’s number one, brilliant with his feet, tried to dribble around an attacker which led, inevitably, to conceding a goal into an open net. But Liverpool won, so it will soon be forgotten. Only a few weeks ago, Hugo Lloris, in the biggest match of his life, the World Cup final, gave Croatia a tiny bit of hope with a buffoonish decision. But that hope was stifled, and France is World Champion, and no one cares about that mistake.

Owl faced Deeney's cojones

For Allison, it was quite ironic. They dumped Karius for him for errors like this. He also had an interview the previous week saying he had to take the risk of dribbling if required.

A Different George

In fairness to Karius, I honestly believe (and thought at the time) that we was concussed by Ramos in the Champion’s League final.


The issue is more on us not playing Cech into bother. Why we have to start so deep, play across the defense is beyond me. I don’t see the point of it. It is a flawed tactic that Emery needs to change rather. We don’t have the players to send it long (no Giroud or wide players) and this has been an issue created by our poor buying tactics in market by Mslintat. BUT we can still work it out better without compromise to the keeper. EVEN if Leno started, I would advise against this sort of play. In any… Read more »

Maul Person

Have you EVER said anything positive about Arsenal on this board…?


Playing out of the back from deep has a very intentional tactical purpose. It unpacks the opposing team’s press. They have to stretch their press higher and deeper, opening up more space to move through the middle and into attack. Even with Giroud, one of the world’s best target men up top, we suffered time and time again trying to get back into a match by sending it up to him only to have it smothered and watch the opposition press the ball back into their possession and come right back at us. It was a repeated phrase that were… Read more »


Fuxk sam, his route one is a copy of our own 1nil to arsenal, seaman to Wright and a goal. Then we Park the bus.

Everyone copies us.


Most of us don’t consider consequences when we ask for change. Leno’s got to be our first choice keeper in the coming years and not now. Leno may be better with the ball at his feet, but that is not the only aspect of goalkeeping. Emery prefers Cech as he is good at shot stopping and has done a fabulous job in that aspect so far. Cech knows the pace of premier league, knows most teams, managers and players – including our defenders well, which offers him an edge. His experience keeps him on top still at 36 and you… Read more »

Jean Ralphio

We don’t have Giroud to hold the ball up anymore and our build up play is much better I feel when we do play from the back.


Lacazette seems to have learnt from Giroud this season.

I don’t know how good the build up play is. Far too deep and too much risk being taken.


These days all of the teams in the league have physically capable and well organised players that can have a good chance if they sit back and grind out a draw against any possession based side. So it’s become increasingly prevalent to play slower and invite the opponent onto the attacking side before, just as they overextend, speed up play and slice into the space that’s only briefly available. There are definitely benefits of attacking like this, although when not 100% ready to (yet!) it does leave us vulnerable. I am quite looking forward to seeing us improve over time… Read more »


True, playing out from the back has cost us goals. But its not like we were keeping tons of clean sheets last season, when we were not playing out from the back. The problem with us is with the individual players, and them as a team. We are not very defensive prone. We tend to lose our shit when the ball is rolled into out penalty box. Whether we play out from the back or not, there are more fundamental problems to be fixed. Now one of the ways to do it would be to suddenly become a defensive team–an… Read more »

A Different George

We did in fact have those 20 minutes a half of absolute dominance fairly often last season. Which is why we had 47 points at home (City had 50). The key is doing that in away games, where I’m not sure we did it even once last season.


It was a lot of possession without any bite as far as I remember. Most teams had us figured even before a ball was kicked. If we won at home, its coz we scored goals, and goals are always the culmination of things going right, but there was no sustained method to it. It was mostly about keeping as much possession as possible, and hoping that one or two moves will click, and we will score. If Emery is looking for a new method in how we attack, and if those periods of dominance we have seen this season is… Read more »

89 was fine

Honestly I haven’t seen much of this big player mentality in the last few seasons. Their has been the odd game were the players come together implement a plan and win a game (FA Cup chavs) but far to often the in game management and player decision making process has been poor. I would absolutely love it if Emery was able to address this. Their are signs of change but it’s clear to see we have many problems which in all likelihood will need a change in personal to fix. Will be interesting to see Emerys team selection in the… Read more »


Mustafl like Xhaka have qualities and flaws in equal measures, if Emery can eradicate some of their flaws? I think they can both be really top players. Mustafi is 26, Xhaka 25 until he turns 26 (because that’s how it works) Should both be entering their peak years around now, Hopefully we can see some return on our £70millon Investment? Both have plenty of experience now, we need to see both step up their levels of concentration and consistency, because I think this season really is last chance for the pair, and we need enough team surgery without replacing £70mill… Read more »


Fair point. The issue is more the options beyond Mustafi in defense are far worse. Holding was a bag of mistakes in pre-season and Mavropanos untested. Sokratis isn’t the player we needed to come in. As with most things, the ills of Mustafi and Granit are overly exaggerated by the media. Mustafi as much as he is culpable for the odd mistake also puts in numerous headed clearances and critical intercepts. Sure he will miss one or two but like against Cardiff, he mostly kept Ward quiet on the right when they tried to feed the striker behind Bellerin. Monreal… Read more »

Parisian Weetabix

Completely agree with you that Xhaka will be 25 until he turns 26, I’ve been saying it for ages but just hope he’ll start showing it on the pitch.

Bai Blagoi

And I was saying that Xhaka is 25 until he turns 26 only the last one year..


They both need complementary partners to get the best out of them. Let’s hope Xhaka-Torreira is one, but for Mustafi-Papa I am less hopeful. Even him and Kos are too similar in my opinion. I would like to see the Greek pair given a go in Europa, or even Mustafi-Holding, which I feel is an alright combination.

Ya gooner

Mustafi and holding together would ruin holdings confidence. I hope he improves but lets face it we need a brilliant cb to cover for his mistakes to be defensivepy competent. See kompany and otamendi/demichellis

Gooner Sam

Completely agree, this is where Emery can make A real tangible difference


I think you’re confusing Lichsteiner with Shaqiri


no he didn’t. Lichtsteiner did it too out of solidarity towards his teammate.

i know this topic should be over and xhaka/shaqiri/lichtsteiners celebration were justified at the WC imo, just because it was the right thing to the right time. but it would be great if we don’t do any nationalist celebrations at the arsenal?! mustafi at cardiff?! im aware, that like xhaka he is half albanian and it also was xhakas assist but this is so 19th century. pls stop.


“Big player mentality”
Better if he were to focus on “keeping his wits” about himself more consistently.



The mistakes were Monreal’s.

Turned too easily for the first goal and was not tight enough for the second.

Don’t understand all the criticism on Granit either.

Sure he miscued the ball but the idea was correct. AND we had plenty in the box to defend even after the mistake.

Mustafi did well and scored a goal cued up by Granit.


I thought Mustafi had a decent display. One very powerful goal but also 3 or 4 other chances in the box off of corners. Back in defense he kept Ward at bay in the space behind Bellerin, made the usual good number of headed clearances. One important clearance from a dangerous ball into the box coming in low with too many Cardiff players around him. Of course there’s still mistakes here and there but same (if not more) can be said of say Monreal who got turned too easily for their first goal by Camarasa never mind Granit getting his… Read more »


Hopefully once they have Torriera in front of them they’ll have more of a chance to get comfortable playing out from the back. We should be pretty well set to score loads of fast counter attacking goals that way. But I’m still not sure Mustafi can hack it, centre backs should give you a feeling of confidence and scare the opposition, not the other way around.


Torreira and Guendouzi have been brilliant so far. I think they add a lot of substance to their game.. I would love it if Emery can change El Neny from sideways sideways to a forward thinking player. It’s almost like El Neny forgot how to shoot.


Tactically, we are constrained by the assets we have. The whole play out from the back thing needs better nuance. Emery needs to stop this tactic passing the ball across the line so deep. Its just too risky. Against Cardiff we played a 4-2-2-2 Presumably we expected much of the ball. With 4 midfielders, we flooded the midfield. Auabmeyang often joined Lacazette nearer the box with either shifting left or right. Which meant just behind them Ramsey and Ozil would correspondingly go wide left or right respectively should either striker cut in field. When he dropped slightly deeper, Ozil got… Read more »

Thierry bergkamp

They’ve actually conceded 8, not 7.


I don’t get the whole thing about Xhaka. You have other players making MUCH more glaring mistakes like Monreal but Granit gets the cirticism. Why? BC most fans do not know what they are watching. Watch the matches again in FULL. Do not watch the highlight. You count the number of good things Granit and Mustafi do in a match. Then look out for errors in say Sokratis or Monreal. YOU would realise that Mustafi and Granit bring A LOT more positives than you imagine. Its the usual case of people listening to the media and getting their heads mucked… Read more »

Gooner Sam

I’m sorry but I have to disagree, I get what you are saying in that some get more coverage for mistakes than others but both Xhaka and Mustafi give away clear cut chances every match and two different managers not being able to get them to cut it out. However there is still time to show us what they are made of….just…


Same with this whole Leno clamour.

Has it ocurred to anyone that Leno despite the price we paid is an average keeper even if he is ‘more comfortable’ with ball at feet?

He will get his chance and will audition in the cups.

What we need to do is NOT put Cech under undue pressure by making such risky back passes to him. Clearly this tactic needs to be better nuanced.

Sookratis should have put the ball down the line instead of sending it back to Cech.

But hey, Sokratis is not Mustafi so he cannot get criticised.


Do the talking on the pitch.

Hey Arseblog, heard you this morning on SiriusXM FC. while everything you said was accurrate and measured, it’s not clear why you didnt go on about our defense to Phil and Ray like you do on the blog here. I understand the part about it being too early and all though.


Not sure what you mean?


I hit send before I even completed my last thought.

On the blog here, on several occasions you’ve stated clearly that defense is still a major issue (in one post over the weekend you said it “stands still”). I didn’t feel you were open about it on the call with Phil and Ray as if you were holding back not to criticize the Arsenal defending, even though they both kept probing your opinion. I didn’t know if there was a reason for not being open about it.

No criticism to you, just an observation.


I guess neither Phil nor Ray brought up the subject of Arsenal’s terrible defending either as they kept probing you for your thoughts. So maybe it was just my expectation that the focus would end up being about that subject.

Anne Noyd

That sounds like a great dream buddy!


That is the most nipple-y of shirts in history (that picture of Mustafi). I am not prude on the human form, but I am hoping the Adidas kit is a bit more forgiving because I heard the rest of the squad was calling him Raisin Smuggler the whole ride back to London.


I’m pretty sure Xhaka and Shakiri were disciplined for their celebrations, not Lichtsteiner. Anyway, for what it’s worth, in my opinion, regardless of what the FA does, Arsenal should tell players not to celebrate this way.

Monkey knees

Mustafi gets a lot of stick. I, for one, think he’s improved.

Dave Crawford

From a very low base..like saying Hollyoaks has improved

Monkey knees

Our defence is a bit of an oddity – there’s been no huge, glaring individual errors, but, there is still a lack of cohesiveness… I’ve said it before, as have others, but i do struggle to understand how a legend like Steve Bould is so heavily involved, but our defensive unit has not improved for years now..!?


Maybe its not leno who isnt ready, maybe its the defenders. Perhaps Emery doesnt want to put leno in until the cbs and full backs are playing the right passes and taking up the right positions. Cech is established and can handle the criticism but put Leno into an environment where mistakes are guaranteed and hes going to take pelters from ‘supporters’ before hes had a chance to establish himself. Or maybe hes shit, noone knows yet so no point speculating really.

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