Few players have benefitted more since Mikel Arteta’s arrival at Arsenal than Shkodran Mustafi.
Told by the club that he was surplus to requirements last summer, he was left out in the cold by Unai Emery when he failed to secure a move and looked set for a campaign on the bench. He looked pretty disconsolate about the situation and spoke openly about the abuse he’d had from supporters.
Game time in Europe and the League Cup helped him build some much-needed momentum and when injuries struck the squad he was on hand to take his chance.
Mikel Arteta seemed to look at Mustafi as a project, admitting after the 2-2 draw at Chelsea in which the German had caused the situation that led to David Luiz being sent off, that it was his job to improve players so they don’t make individual mistakes.
That forgiving attitude has gone down well with the former Valencia defender who admits his new coach has been a breath of fresh air.
“Each one of us has benefitted from this arrival,” Mustafi told Arsenal Player.
“He has brought a very clear identity and a very clear idea of how he wants to play football, but at the same time he gives you space to make your own decisions because you are on the pitch and you know exactly what the coach wants from you.
“I think as well he has been listening into the changing room and listening to the players to find out why things were not working out before. Sometimes we don’t realise how difficult it is to be a coach because you have so many people that you have to make follow your idea.
“Sometimes players are happy, sometimes players that don’t play are not so happy, so it is not easy to have all on board and all agreeing with your ideas and philosophy. But he has managed to do that and in this short period it has been something very difficult to do, but he has done it. That is why we created a bit of momentum and we are heading in the right direction.
“I have benefitted from his arrival and his coaching. When you are 28 years old, you think you have heard everything and then a coach comes in and you still learn and hear things that you you have never heard before.
“He has been incredible since his arrival. He has shown his aura and his personality just shows that he is so convinced of the way he thinks football should be and how he wants his team to play, and it you just agree with it and soak in all the information.”
It’ll be interesting to see what Arteta does with Mustafi when the campaign ends. The German, like a number of others, will be heading into the final year of his contract and unless we’re planning on handing him an extension – almost unthinkable a few months ago – he could well be sold.