Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Emery: Zaha’s goal was not a Mustafi mistake

Unai Emery has leapt the defence of under-fire Shkodran Mustafi, saying the German is a ‘a very good centre-back’, but says his habit of going to ground in the tackle is something he needs to address.

He also, somewhat remarkably, says the mistake which led to Wilfried Zaha’s goal, was one of his system and not an individual error by the defender.

It’s not the first time he’s made mistakes this season, and his apparent willingness to blame anyone but himself only exacerbates frustration. However, the Arsenal boss has given Mustafi his backing, hoping to boost his confidence for our run-in and this evening’s encounter with Wolves.

“I want every player to have big confidence,” he said.

“I want to protect the players. Mustafi is a very good player, a very good centre-back, he has the habit – usually he is doing the tackle and going to ground, using anticipation against the opposition.

“He can win one, win two, win three, win four – but if he loses one he is the picture and if he concedes a goal he is the big picture. For example, Sunday was the same and happened with him.

“I have spoken to him: ‘You are young, you can improve and you need also to work hard because you have a big quality for a centre-back.’”

The turning point of Sunday’s defeat to Palace was that dreadful Mustafi mistake, but Emery says it was a problem of the system, because he is better suited to playing in a back three and he didn’t get enough protection from players around him.

“When we use three centre backs, we protect them more,” he said. “You can anticipate, and you can lose one tackle but we have two who are covering.

“When we have only two, if you lose the anticipation, there is only one behind. That is happening a lot with Mustafi, but I want him not every time to do the tackle on the ground.”

“Sometimes you need to stop, sometimes you need to stay with the player because sometimes we concede a penalty because you want to anticipate.

“He is young, he is improving and Sunday he is in the big picture because of the second goal. Who is in this picture? Mustafi – but it’s not his mistake.

“The mistake was tactical because we need to protect him with two centre-backs against Zaha. I protect him because I believe in him.

“He needs to improve things tactically, decision-making, but he has good quality and needs confidence.

“Now, maybe he has lost a bit of confidence. My work is to help him. We need him. I am going to say to our supporters, ‘Help our players.’ But I know we need to take the criticism and be strong as players, as a coach, as a team, as a club.

“We receive criticism in some moments but it’s our work. We need to improve knowing that.”

We can only assume that with a paucity of options at centre-half, Emery is looking to boost the spirits of a player he’ll need between now and the end of the campaign, but to suggest it was an issue with our system and not a calamitous mistake from Mustafi is no easy reading because that’s just not what happened.

Is it a sign that he’ll play tonight against Wolves? I guess we’ll see soon enough.

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Well he can’t just throw him under the bus, he’s not Mou. Plus he might actually need him and it wouldn’t be nice if the guy is low esteemed which to me is a large part of why he’s making so many mistakes in the last year.


Yes, no way Emery criticizes his players in public. But he certainly knows whose mistake it was, and a very costly one it was as well.

I have also noted the gaffer has dropped Mustafi the few chances he has had when Monreal, Koscielny and Sokratis are fit and available. Especially a few of the big games. Think he could get benched for the Wolves game, despite the defence Emery has put up or him.

Faisal Narrage

I think it’s telling when he blames the system as effectively saying Mustafi should only be used in a 3-man defence.

No good quality CB should only be used in a 3-man system. It’s a tacit acknowledgment/Freudian slip that he’s actually not good enough.

But we’re gonna need him. Either as a CB or RB cover after Jenkinson’s showing. So this is the right thing to say and do.

Leno me, I’ll be your friend

May also be that he’s doing what he can to keep his market value as high as possible. If it doesn’t work they’ll have to paint racing stripes on him, possibly attach a spoiler, and I’m pretty sure a few players wouldn’t mind giving him a few ‘speed holes’ (“makes it go faster!”), to bring in the prospective buyers.

Monkey Joe

You call Emery a lier?


It seems that Ole Gunner a.k.a. The babyface killer (IMHO Gollum from LOTR) is doing the same with the MUFC players nowadays


Does Emery take us for retards?

Runcorn Gooner

Emery said “You are young,you can improve”
(Mike turned off)
but not at this club because you never ever learn from your mistakes and you blame everybody else for your ineptitude.


Emery = Santori.

Faisal Narrage

Emery likes Elneny, for one.


Yeah…. Well you probably are if you think Emery is going to throw Mustafi underneath the bus when we have a handful games ramaining.

Ask a stupid question and you’ll get a stupid answer.


This is unnecessary as an assessment. Here is a fact gaffer, Mustafi is a braindead, average, no, shite footballer. Everything he’s done at this club it’s like Midas in reverse; it turns into poo when he touches it. Sell him for £0 and take a hit on his wages, I don’t care. Just get rid of him. We don’t need a dressing room DJ that Mustafi is so proclaimed, we need a solid, somewhat intelligent at the least centre back.


Unfortunately, AFC does and should care what we get for Mustafi. Which may be part of the reason why Emery isn’t calling him completely shit.


Ah Emery, I get what you’re doing here *taps side of nose*

Laca New Signing

Mustafi is the present day Sebastian Squillaci, Johan Djourou and Phillipe Senderos all rolled into one. Thank God we only have a few more matches to the end of the season. We must sign a few decent defenders if we have to challenge for any titles next season. 2 CBs, a LB, a RB and a WC DM

Billy Bob

I agree with some of what you said but I’d say we need a CB, LB, winger and CM – it looks like we already have a promising youngster on the way to make, what I hope, will be five signings (like we did last summer).


Five or six players? It’s not gonna happen.


Apparently Emery has five players targeted so maybe it is going to happen


I’d take any of those 3 over Mustafi

Ya gooner

I used to think at least we dont have phil jones, now I think can we swap him for phil jones ?


That’s not even funny…


Emery if that’s all you have to say about this disaster whom whenever I see him I remember sylvester, then you’re part of the reason why he can comfortably go to bed and sleep without having a nightmare. Mustafi does not deserve a place in our bench talk more of stepping on the turf at the Emirate. Spare us that explanation and prepare his exit asap.


…the best way to sell is by protecting his value. Plus if you blame individuals you might lose the dressing room.

Gutbukkit Deffrolla

Onlyorch, you are the worst commenter here. Every time you comment we let in a literary goal. I am going to proclaim to the world that you are too crap at commenting to comment here, and then I am going to tell the blogging world that you are for sale. I am sure that some other blog will be willing to pay a few million pounds to take you off our hands. Oh dear. I just character-assassinated you and now no other blog will take you. Who would have expected that. Its a good thing Blogs has unlimited funds so… Read more »

I AM ARSENAL The truth about Mustafi… Try defending this Santori


Everything I’ve said about Emery is coming to the fore now. The guy cannot coach a defence as he has shown everywhere he’s been- Sevilla were average at best defensively under him. It’s not surprising at all to me that he can’t seem to see how ridiculously awful Mustafi is as a defender- he doesn’t know what a good defender is. People don’t like it but statistics are key here and if you look at Emery’s career it all starts to unravel


What the f*** are you on about? If we go by statistics Unai Emery is one of the best managers in the world. You look at finances available to him at each club and trophies won, he’s up there with the very best. Get your head out of your arse.


Talking about defence stats, clown


Emery has many positives as a coach but defence is not one of them. I’ve followed him for years, unlike you. I was also one of the biggest advocates for Wenger’s departure so I’m not anti-Emery.


Shut up!


This is a comments section, I’ll say what I want to, thank you

Leno me, I’ll be your friend

I really need to know, when you wrote “unlike you” were you sticking your tongue out and had your hands waving at the side of your head, while you muttered “neh-neh-neh-neh-nehhh!”? ?


We are privileged to have the assessment of one of the great minds of the game. Thank you for enlightening us regarding emery’s defensive coaching.




Compared to last season we have won more away games with Emery despite having the same defence last season bar Sokratis. And at home we are one of the strongest teams in the Prem. Of course hes not going to throw his own player under the bus. Talking stats Emery’s first 50 games, hes won 32 – the highest of any Arsenal manager. And we are still in the shout for top four and a European trophy. Stop being disrespectul and appreciate what he has done with limited funds in one season.

Man Manny

Do you really think a manager who’s won three straight EL on a relatively shoe-string budget does not know how to defend? I find your comments very ridiculous!
I think you have misjudged the manager’s comments.
Emery is only trying to rally a wounded and deflated soldier and nothing more.
He needs Mustafi for the run-in; that’s a fact.

Arsene did it several times with Almunia, Senderos, Sylvestre, Eboue, Squillaci, Andre Santos, and many more.
This assertion, I can bet my bottom dollar, is not Emery’s sincere evaluation of Mustafi’s abilities as a defender.
It’s called Man Management.


What are you on about Jai.. you’re drunk.


I think the problem with Mustafi is twofold:
1. He is more error-prone than the very best CB’s and way more talkative compared to them.
2. In this modern-day hype -universe these are the best carasteristics to put yourself in a downward tailspin.

Apart from these: anyone who checks his long term stats will surprise!
for example:


The errors make it impossible for him to continue at Arsenal, in my opinion.

They outweigh the good stuff he does.

A Different George

I think Flash and (unfortunately) Dave are both correct. I have been one of those who pointed out, repeatedly, that Mustafi is often very good and never gets credited for that, and that he is often blamed when he is not at fault–but I have also said, repeatedly, that he occasionally (yes, only occasionally, but far too often) makes calamitous errors, almost always errors in judgment rather than physical ability. If the Zaha goal, as ridiculous as it was, was the only error of that scale this season, or even one of two, then okay, even great players do that… Read more »


I know Emery, I know…’re just keeping him sellable during summer. Thanks and good ebening


I’m sure that Emery is well aware of Mustafi’s limitations, but we need him during the run in, what happens in the summer is another story, this is good management, supporting his player and protecting his value for the summer when we hopefully decide to move him on.

Thierry Bergkamp

Apparently the stats prove that Mustafi is having a better season that Van Dyke. If you believe that, then I am too.

Crash Fistfight

If you show those stats to santori it would be like that bit in Star Trek where Captain Kirk makes the robot’s head explode: stats prove Mustafi isn’t awful, but stats are nonsense – “DOES NOT COMPUTE, DOES NOT COMPUTE”… BOOM!

A Different George

I don’t think so. Last I looked (before Palace, which would obviously lower his rating) Mustafi was rated slightly above Koscielny but Van Dijk was the highest-rated defender in England.


Emery is right. It was a tactical mistake to play Mustafi.


He’s shown in a few games that he can be a decent centre back, unfortunately he’s shown in all the other games that he can’t do it consistently. The only two areas I’d like to see him improve in are fucking off and doing it quickly.


Have to praise Emery’s “restraint” here. But to say the issue was tactical because, effectively, Mustafi isn’t good enough to play in a back 4 is really quite damning. A top CB, even an average CB really, deals with the Zaha goal with a minimum of fuss on their own. At 27, he’s not exactly a spring chicken either. Emery’s comments and the ludicrous statistical comparison between Mustafi and VVD really highlight his issue. In truth, Mustafi is an aggressive and effective tackler BUT he uses that as a crotch, to overcompensate for his inability to read a game effectively… Read more »


I see… So when Koscielny leads the team in tackles, interceptions etc he is hailed as a world class defender, but when it’s Mustafi it’s because he can’t “read the game”. You can’t win with some people.

Bergkamp 3:16

Yes I would say that they are similar in some respects. Let’s not forget that Kos was error prone when he arrived but improved his game to get to the level he’s at. Mustafi has not improved his game and given that the league is now more competitive we can’t afford the likes of Mustafi anywhere near our team. He’s costing us games.


Kos cost us the Europa League semi last season, kicking the ball into his own face when panicked and gifting Greasmann the equaliser at the Emirates v Atletico. A Mustafi-like fuck up, worse even, but no one’s calling for his nuts.

Irrational Gunner

And who did not run full tilt back to the goal to help Cech and Kos? Mustafi. That is where I lost all respect for the guy.

I’m for an upgrade to the best one on one defender we can buy. We already have older defenders to rotate, so keeping Mustafi around is a waste of resources.


Quite a few people were actually, but that’s beside the point. Mustafi has regressed this season because previously AW was more free-form and Emery wants the players to be more disciplined positionally and it’s looking as if that’s beyond Mustafi. He needs to leave and I believe he will…just not sure if we will be able to sell him so we might need to send him on loan and to do that we need to make sure he’s not mentally shot.

A Different George

This is exactly right: I thought Mustafi was very similar to Koscielny, with the same strengths and the same weaknesses–aggressive, proactive, risk-taking. But Koscielny learned much more quickly than Mustafi has (though he had the advantage of Mertesacker, the opposite sort of defender, being alongside him).

Thierry Bergkamp

Koscielny was never really world class though. He’s always been rash and used to have his pace to compensate for his weaknesses.


@Spectator, Kosc and Mustafi actually have similar styles (though Kosc is a lot more reserved nowadays compared to before) but this is why the eye test is important. The difference between the two is that Kosc is just much, much better at reading the game. Kosc’s aggression is proactive, Mustafi’s is reactive.


Managers talk shit don’t they? If it had been Wenger he’d either have said he didn’t see it or that the team showed great mental strength.

John C

Very little mention of Koscielny losing the header against Benteke and whether it was necessary for him to go that far forward to compete for it. Whilst i’m not defending Mustafi, who clearly made a big mistake, Koscielny judgement must also be questioned given the odds of him winning the header in the first place.

Crash Fistfight

This (our centre backs trying to win the ball high up the pitch) seems to be a long-standing issue. Even Mertesacker did it!

I remember Amy Lawrence’s article about Mark Hughes’ tactics against us (to paraphrase): “draw Vermaelen upfield and use the space behind him”.

Yes, the goal is mainly on Mustafi, but this tendency to leave a huge space for opponents to run into is a problem.

Thierry Bergkamp

It’s a sin to criticise Koscielny here. People here seem to think he’s the French Maldini.

John C

Whilst he might be our best defender, he has some very obvious flaws that keeps him out of the bracket of top class


Emery botched the line up and approach, he took a gamble and it failed. Jenks, Elneny, Mustafi, Mavrapanos and Auba all had bad games or made too many mistakes. Blaming Mustafi solely is being naive, the biggest and most costly mistake was made by Emery in his tactics and line up.

Let’s hope we can play our best players on all remaining games. We can only consider the next game after we have won the previous. Pick the best for the remaining games and hope for the best


Well said.

alay paun

hey hey
anyone know a good pub to watch the game in north london? everywhere seems to be showing the manchester derby la.

somewhere that lets in any old random (me) and not just members



Still young? He’s 27 ffs! If he hasn’t got rid of mistakes, like going to ground too easy, out of his game by now, he never will.
Still, don’t blame the manager for supporting him, that’s part of his job


This is proper management. Ask yourselves this … what exactly would you do if you (bizarrely) were managing this squad with the games we have until the end of the season? Of our last six out of seven games (the ones where we had clean sheets) before our loss to Palace, Mustafi played in three: Watford, Newcastle, and Rennes. And he was our star player in two of them. Yes, he played in our last two losses also … Everton and Palace. But in both those games we had Elneny and Guendouzi in midfield in front of him. That was… Read more »

Yankee Gooner

Well, we only have look back a few months to see what Emery might do: bench him indefinitely and publicly opine that he should fuck off to another club.


I am willing to go along with supporting him until the summer, but then enough is enough.

Make Arsenal Great Again

I’m all for not criticizing players in public, but bro, that was a school boy error. It has nothing to do with system, protecting of those around him or whatever. Mustafi read the situation well, came across like he should have, and beats Zaha to the ball. With any other professional footballer, the danger should have died after that. But with Mustafi, the adventure just only began.

Gutbukkit Deffrolla

I think you just criticised Mustafi in public.


I´m so glad that at Arsenal we dont publicly speak negatively about our players. Everyone saw what happened on sunday and yes we all do mistakes. Some more than others


Damn is he watching the same game as I did???


35 million. Jesus…..still can’t get over that.


Guess we’ll be seeing more of Mustafi next season.


I think Mustafi is a secret agent working for another PL rival


I tend to agree with the gaffer. Too many people are looking to amplify every fault of Mustafi’s and not recognise the positives in his game. Plenty of other players make some of the other smaller mistakes positionally or otherwise that he does in a match. They don’t get called out. Some people in media like scapegoats and like to cast blame on a convenient individual. Last several seasons, it was Flamini. Now its Mustafi (or Granit or Ozil or Iwobi) Meanwhile some players can do no wrong to them…until recently jenkinson or Elneny. Torreira for example as I have… Read more »


Looks like Unai is going for full strength tonight. Koscielny-Sokratis-Monreal so total experience should be very secure for us. AMN and Kolasinac at wingback Torreira- Granit good to see Xhaka available and frankly our strongest pairing. Iwobi also in which will help unleash Kolasinac better. Ozil behind Lacazette a bit of caution, we can still lump on Auba later on but Laca the better in terms of use of ball and protecting it. Mhki on the right since we are triangle up top. For want of a better option right side, Mhki has been good and bad. His finishing has… Read more »

Tony Hall

So who’s fault was it … the singing nun ?

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