Mikel Arteta believes he can help Arsenal minimise individual mistakes but insists when they do happen his players must not stop playing.
The boss was speaking with reference to Shkodran Mustafi’s gaff at Stamford Bridge that forced a desperate last-ditch challenge from David Luiz that earned the Brazilian a red card and led to Chelsea taking the lead from the penalty spot.
Despite the game-changing error, the Mustafi went on to put in a decent shift at the back, which Arteta, off the back of a 2-2 draw, was quick to take positives from.
Speaking at his weekly press conference, Arteta said: “I worked with players like this, I had teammates like this, and there is always a moment where there is ‘a click’…you know?
“I can accept a mistake, no problem. What I can never expect is someone who makes a mistake and then stops playing … he doesn’t want the ball and doesn’t want to make decisions. That kind of player is not acceptable for our team.
“But Mustafi after that [the mistake] he tried to play every single time, he went for every challenge, he put his body on the line. He was down afterwards, yes, but he reacted. And if he does that, he will overcome the situation.
“I ask him to play the way we want to play, he made a mistake. Another day it will be somebody else. Obviously we want to minimise that as quick as possible and find the reason why that happens, but I liked his reaction.”
While Mustafi has a reputation for brain farts, he’s not exactly the first player this season to make a bad mistake trying something simple. Speaking from experience, Arteta believes he can help the German cut out such errors.
“Yes [I can help],” he said. “There are certain patterns that lead to those kind of scenarios, and the more of those patterns that we take away slowly that will decrease. I’m confident we can do that.”
Asked if it was a confidence issue, Arteta admitted it played a part, but it wasn’t the only reason, and when the issue of the 28-year-old’s future was put to him in the context of the club’s public willingness to let him leave last summer, the new manager seemed to leave the door open for him.
“While he is my player and he’s training with me of course [he has a future]. You know the plans in the summer were maybe different with him. I came here, his attitude is always right, he wants to help. He made a mistake, it’s ok, but I like more the reaction.
“I can’t control, maybe it’s Musti, the next day somebody else, or myself for sure.
“I don’t believe that at 28 you can’t improve certain aspects of the game, I really believe you can. It is my job to do that.”
Quite how Mustafi’s playing time will be affected by the imminent signing of Pablo Mari remains to be seen. As he’s a left footer, he’d likely be back-up/alternative for David Luiz, leaving the German, Sokratis and Rob Holding to compete for the place on the right hand side of the defence.
Perhaps the best way to minimise mistakes in your team is to use the players who make the least of them.