Arsenal: Koscielny backs teammate to come good; Mustafi on his faith; Spaniard's contract desire
A big part of Arsenal’s recent resurgence has been Arsene Wenger’s decision to move towards and more fluid and mobile frontline. Olivier Giroud was handed an extended break following his summer exertions at the European Championship in which France reached the final.
In his usual sport in as the fulcrum of Arsenal’s attack he has been replaced by Alexis Sanchez. Flanked by Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott, Wenger’s side have finally found a balanced forward line that enables them to play the type of football they want to play.
The Arsenal manager’s philosophy has always been about speed of movement, positional rotation and quick passing combinations; for all Giroud’s undoubted attributes, he has sometimes cut an awkward presence in this environment.
His compatriot and Gunners’ vice-captain Laurent Koscielny though, has backed him to make a significant contribution this season:
“We returned late after Euro 2016, so we had to do more to be ready physically.
“There is competition up front at Arsenal and Alexis Sanchez is walking on water right now, so it’s difficult to remove him from the starting XI.
“I know Olivier and he has seen more difficult things during his career. We know his mental strength and the season is very long.
“He will have the opportunity to be back and give his answer on the pitch.”
Giroud has barely featured since he was sent off in Arsenal’s Champions League opener at PSG, with some fans suggesting his recent absence has been a punishment for his behavior that night. However, the ‘toe injury’ that Wenger has put his absence down to seems to be genuine because he has not made the France squad.
As Arsenal toiled to break down Burnley on Sunday, some pundits argued that they missed the ‘Plan B’ that Giroud brings. That said, there is a fine line between having a ‘Plan B’ and playing into the opposition’s hands. Giroud is exactly the type of forward Burnley’s centre backs would have enjoyed playing against.
Elsewhere, summer signing Shkodran Mustafi has quickly established himself as Koscielny’s first choice partner in defence and has been talking how his religious faith gives him valued perspective. Born in Germany to Albanian parents, Mustafi is a devout Muslim and says this helps him recover from poor performances:
“Being a Muslim is very important to me, more important than anything, although sometimes travel makes it difficult for me to always pray when I want,” to Mustafi told Sport Bild.
“That is my main task. And if I play a c**p game it’s not the end of the world.”
There haven’t been many under par performances recently, as the World Cup winner has won the trust of Wenger and the Arsenal faithful within a few weeks of joining the club. He and Koscielny were outstanding against Diego Costa, and Mustafi came through a very physical battle against Sam Vokes just about unscathed. He is also a very good distributor with the ball, and has played a big part in the build up to Arsenal’s late winner against Southampton and Burnley.
Finally, Santi Cazorla as confirmed that he wants to sign a new contract at the club. The Spaniard turns 32 in December, and Wenger’s usual policy is to only hand outfield players over the age of 30 a one-year contract. With the arrivals of Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka this calendar year, it seemed as if Cazorla become more of a squad player. However, his dexterity and close control makes him a unique option and he has started almost all of the Gunners’ Premier League matches.
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