Could Unai Emery's stubborn stance over Mustafi cost Arsenal CL qualification?
Arsenal manager Unai Emery has launched a passionate defence of under-fire defender Shkodran Mustafi, after the German international made two errors against Crystal Palace at the weekend.
The World Cup winner hit headlines for the wrong reasons once again for some awful defending against the Eagles, which contributed to the disappointing 3-2 home defeat.
It was a big opportunity for Arsenal with Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United both losing, and Chelsea drawing the next day.
A large number of Arsenal fans were exasperated with Mustafi, who has garnered an unwanted reputation as being error-prone.
The £35 million signing from Valencia has made a number of high profile mistakes since joining the club in 2016, but his manager Emery was quick to come to his defense.
He said, as quoted by The Telegraph: “Mustafi is a very good player, a very good centre-back. He has the habit of doing a tackle and going to ground, using his anticipation against the opposition.
“He can win one [tackle], win two, win three, win four – but if he loses one he is the picture and if we concede a goal he is the big picture. I have spoken to him: ‘You are young, you can improve and you need to work hard because you have a big quality for a centre-back’.”
Although Emery can be admired for his defence, one has to wonder if his faith in Mustafi is misguided.
The Spaniard continually puts his trust in the 27-year-old but he is yet to iron the mistakes out of his game.
It can be argued that Emery is being stubborn over the defender, in the same way Arsene Wenger was with a number of players that underperformed down the years.
If Arsenal miss out on Champions League qualification by a single point, many will point to the Palace game as huge contributing factor.
If Mustafi’s struggles continue through to the end of the season, it will merely confirm Emery as being stubborn.
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