Analysing Shkodran Mustafi's Arsenal debut against Southampton
One of Arsenal’s biggest signings in this latest transfer window was the long awaited of a central defender, with Shkodran Mustafi arriving from Valencia to fill a gaping hole in the Gunners’ defence with Per Mertesacker out through injury until Christmas. Another summer addition, Rob Holding, temporarily filled in at the start of the season, but the German centre-half stepped up to the plate to make his debut at the Emirates as Arsenal faced Southampton.
Mustafi was imperious, a 100% tackle success rate, dominating the right hand side of the defence despite Nathan Redmond’s best efforts to hassle the big man. Southampton tried to find various ways to beat the former Everton man, alongside Laurent Koscielny in defence, but struggled. Initially, the Saints tried to play the ball in their usual style, but struggled to break though, with Mustafi intercepting passes and taking the ball off the toes of Redmond.
When the south coast outfit switched to a more direct style later on in the game, the World Cup winner was dominant in the air, with three headeded clearances and three successful aerial duels out of six competed. Shane Long stood no chance in the air with the six foot tall defender showing his strength to beat off competition and also showing his experience to outmanouevre his opposite number on numerous occasions.
With no fouls or errors committed, Mustafi kept things clean and ensured that he conceded as few chances as possible. Some had claimed that the German was somewhat error-prone, open to lapses on concentration at times in Spain, but that was not on show this afternoon.
The 24-year-old also showed what else he can offer, with his calm and composed style on the ball clearly on show. With an 89% pass completion ratio, Mustafi boasted one of the best figures on the day, with an impressive 12 successful passes in the attacking third and 44 successful forward passes despite playing in a defensive role. Having played in Spain and Italy, he has experience of starting an attack from the back with short and quick passing to move the ball to the other end, and he should adapt to the Arsenal style quickly with glimpses of that on show on his debut.
Whilst Southampton failed to pose a major threat to the debutant, spending much of the game seemingly playing for the draw, it was a rigorous first test for the defender. His first Premier League appearance despite a previous spell at Goodison Park, Mustafi showed no sign of struggling to adapt to the physicality of English football, as some players have previously struggled to do when brought in to the Gunners defence by Arsene Wenger.
The new number 20 has shown early signs that he could be the strong and dominant defender that the Emirates faithful have been crying out for. Seemingly the perfect match for Wenger’s style, Mustafi could soon establish himself as the first choice partner for Laurent Koscielny before his compatriot and captain, Per Mertesacker, returns from injury later this season.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Emrah Partal.