Shkodran Mustafi admits his mistakes in an Arsenal shirt have made his life difficult at the club but he believes some of the criticism that he’s endured in recent months has become irrational.
A high-profile and costly error in a home defeat to Crystal Palace in April capped a terrible run of form in the second half of last season which led to the defender falling out of favour with Unai Emery over the summer.
In a no-holds-barred interview with Spiegel Online, Mustafi opened up on the situation.
“In the first two years after my move to Arsenal in 2016, things went very well for me,” he said.
“I saw myself as a performer. But shortly after Christmas 2018 there was a kink. I’ve made a few mistakes and they’ve created a mess that I’ve never experienced before.”
He went on: “I’m self-critical enough to realize that I made those mistakes. I can also deal with tough criticism. But the criticism has become escalated and irrational.
“I have become a target. At some point, people even blamed me for a defeat I had not played at all.”
The German hit out at Emmanuel Petit in particular after the former Gunner called him ‘King of the Blunders’, saying ex-professionals should understand the difficulties of the job.
“It’s on the Internet and it’s going to haunt me for the rest of my career,” he said of those comments.
“Former players like Petit shouldn’t need to make a name for themselves by making condescending comments about current players.”
Having been part of a defence that has kept clean sheets in each of his three appearances in the Europa League and Carabao Cup, the 27-year-old appears to be rebuilding his confidence and says his wife has played a big part.
“There were days when I really doubted something about myself,” explained Mustafi.
“But at some point I realized that I am mentally strong. Something my wife said helped me a lot: ‘If you were really as bad as people are making you, you would never have been a World Champion and Arsenal player, something must have brought you here.” Since then I can handle it better.”
Mustafi also made clear that he’s not sought help to cope with the barrage of criticism and that he still has family and friends around him that mean he enjoys his football.
“I felt like I could get through this myself,” he said.
“For me, it would have been red alert if all this had ruined me so much that I had no desire for the game. If I could not have laughed in training. But that was not so. I continued to have friends in my job.
“And my family helped me.”
It was also put to him that after Unai Emery’s public statements about how he should find a new challenge, it was somewhat surprising that he was still an Arsenal player.
“In the summer there were options to leave the club,” he said.
“But there wasn’t an option that all sides would have been happy with. Arsenal also attached some conditions to a possible departure despite their statements.
“I also knew the next change is extremely important to write a positive chapter in my career again. If I move somewhere that doesn’t really fit, the situation couldn’t improve much, so I stayed.
“I am open for the future – also the Bundesliga. In the Europa League and in the League Cup I played the entire games and we did not concede a goal.
“For me that’s a ray of hope that things are looking up again.”
It’s well worth reading the full interview which has some very direct questions (even via Google Translate). You can do so here.