In the latest Shkodran Mustafi transfer news, Inter Milan are reportedly firming up their interest in the German defender. It’s stated that the offer from Inter would involve an initial £5mil loan fee with an obligation to buy Mustafi for an extra £23mil should he meet a 50% appearance requirement. Will Arsenal really want to part with the German after only one season however?
We take a look at Mustafi, his time at Arsenal and where he would fit in at Inter.
Nationality: 20 caps 2 goals
Position: centre-back, can also play right-back
Reported Transfer Fee: approx. £30mil (including one year loan and obligatory fee after)
2016/17 League Stats: 26 starts (0 sub appearances) 2 goals (2 assists)
— Shkodran Mustafi (@MustafiOfficial) August 10, 2017
There have been suggestions for much of the transfer window that Mustafi was attracting attention and that he could be leaving Arsenal. Inter Milan have been linked strongly plus there has been mentions of Juventus’ interested. Mustafi first came to recognition during his time with Sampdoria, making a good impression within Serie A. It’s therefore maybe not surprising that it’s the Italian clubs leading the interest in the German.
Wenger has said Mustafi is still part of his plans and that Arsenal were not considering selling him. I can believe this given that Arsenal have enough on their plate with the futures of so many other players still up in the air, even if what Wenger often says and does are two different things.
More importantly however Arsenal’s strength and depth in the centre back area isn’t great. Koscielny is the only top centre back they possess.
- Monreal has been played at centre back now Arsenal have switched to a back three but he doesn’t seem completely comfortable, probably due to spending the previous 10 years of his career as a full back
- Mertesacker has had some impressive performances since returning from a long term injury which kept him out for the entirety of last season, apart from the FA Cup final. He is retiring at the end of the season to become Head of the Academy though so isn’t a long term option and has some glaring weaknesses such as lack of pace.
- Rob Holding has lacked consistency since joining Arsenal, which is not surprising given he’s still a young defender
- Whilst Calum looks unfancied despite several loan spells away. He has recently signed a new contract which suggests Wenger does see a future for him at Arsenal but makes his lack of involvement all the more confusing.
Mustafi lacks concentration at times but other than that he’s a pretty solid all round defender. Physically and technically he’s good. Whilst he senses danger well, is brave, consistent and good positionally. He’s comfortably Arsenal’s second best centre back which makes the suggestions of a move somewhat surprising.
However it’s fair to say Mustafi hasn’t impressed as much as many may have expected for Arsenal, especially after his performances for Germany, Valencia and Sampdoria. It’s definitely been a disappointing start to his Arsenal career, although he’s not alone as defensively not many have impressed in that period. A lack of appropriate midfield cover has been a big problem of Arsenal’s for years so the blame does not rest entirely with the defence.
I suspect the lack of form has given clubs encouragement of Mustafi availability. He didn’t start the recent Liverpool debacle either which added fuel to the recent speculation.
In some respects, given some of his performances it wouldn’t surprise me if Arsenal did decide to cash in before his value is damaged further. The sums already being talked about are a lost on what they paid last summer, despite the inflated fees we are seeing currently.
However selling Mustafi wouldn’t be the answer to anything and would be of limited financial benefit at best.
Arsenal lack quality in some important areas of the pitch and in some vital qualities within their playing staff. So there’s bigger issues with recruitment. Also important is the questionable tactics and systems at times, especially when up against good opposition. They can leave themselves massively exposed.
There are more fundamental issues with how the club is run and managed. Selling one player is not going to change that.
Inter Milan signed young Slovakian defender Milan Škriniar this summer for over £20mil after he impressed with Sampdoria last season. He, along with veteran Brazilian defender Miranda look like the first choice centre back pairing so far this season for Inter. Presumably Mustafi would be used in rotation with these players if they were successful in their attempts to sign him. Skriniar, in particular, lacks experience and the physicality of Mustafi so it’s hard to see the German not featuring on a fairly regular basis for Inter if he were to join.
Miranda’s appearance record and Inter’s lack of European football means his age probably won’t be a massive factor in dictating how much game time he gets so he will provide good competition for a starting place. Unlike Ranocchia who looks largely frozen out after his return from loan at Hull City last season. He seems to be living on borrowed time at Inter and probably destined to leave this summer or next.
With it being this late in the window, Arsenal shouldn’t be weakening their squad and definitely not the starting XI. It would be slightly more understandable if a replacement was lined up but to be honest, even that seems inadequate.
Arsenal should be strengthening their team, full stop. They really do need to change their approach to a number of things but particularly their transfer strategy.
Arsenal have a deep squad (even if the depth of quality within that is questionable), Mustafi’s performances have been shaky and Inter’s interest seems very real. So taking all this into account, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise in the world if the German moved back to Italy. Much stranger things have happened.
Right now it makes much more sense for Arsenal to hold on to their second best centre back. There’s only been quiet mentions of possible new signings in defence, nothing concrete enough to convince Mustafi could leave. Therefore I expect him to stay at Arsenal still season.
If he continues to struggle for form this season then he and Arsenal may feel a change of scenery is for the best.
Will Wenger do the sensible thing though? Is Mustafi a starter for Arsenal in your opinion? Let me know.