Is Valencia's Shkodran Mustafi the man to make the difference at Arsenal?
After what has so far been a frustrating summer for Arsenal fans, news that Per Mertesacker is to miss the start of the season, and is unlikely to return before Christmas, has put even more of a dampener on the Gunners new season optimism. What might change that though, is that it is said to be forcing Arsene Wenger into the defensive market, with Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi the favourite.
Strong and composed on the ball, Mustafi is everything that Wenger could dream of. With the strength and intelligence of the efficient German team which won the 2014 World Cup, of which Mustafi formed a part, but also the composure and ball playing skills of Italy and Spain, where he has played for Sampdoria and Valencia, the 24-year-old is the perfect example of a modern European defender.
Even better for Wenger, Mustafi has Premier League experience, although not much of it. Having been signed by the Everton Academy from Hamburg in 2009, he made only one appearance for the Toffees, as a substitute in the Europa League in the same year. Despite interest from Newcastle and Manchester City, he never broke through into the first team and was sold on a free transfer to Sampdoria in January 2012, as the Italian side won promotion to Serie A five months later.
After an impressive two and a half seasons in Italy, he was snapped up by Valencia. Now with Champions League experience under his belt, and having led the Spanish club through one of their most difficult seasons in decades, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them cash in on the £6.5 million investment they made as a gamble in 2014.
Now, it seems that the Emirates could be his destination. Spanish sources close to the club, such as Super Deporte, claim that the Gunners are preparing an offer of around £25 million, with another £8 million in add-ons. Such an offer is likely to be accepted by Valencia, who have made it clear that they would not stand in his way, but they have proven to be tough negotiators once already this summer, as they got an impressive fee for Andre Gomes’ move to Barcelona.
For such a fee, it is clear that this German central defender wouldn’t be signed only as cover for Per Mertesacker. Mustafi has been one of the latest batch of young German talents to force Mertesacker out of the first team reckoning for his national side, and now it looks as though he may do the same at club level too. It speaks volumes that whilst many think of Mats Hummels as the in demand German defender, Mustafi kept him out of the starting line-up at Euro 2016 under Joachim Loew.
Despite the presence of the likes of Laurent Koscielny, a player with vast experience, Arsenal have long lacked a leader in their back line, and Mustafi could well be that man. Even at just 24, the German is a vocal organiser and leads by example, gaining plaudits from fans across Europe. To excel, he needs an effective partner, as he shone with Nicolas Otamendi, but even without that, he looked assured and reliable this season alongside various partners, most commonly the inconsistent Aymen Abdennour.
Whilst the reported fee is a big one, and Arsenal could do with looking up top when considering spending big, Mustafi would be worth the investment. What he may lack in height, at just 6ft, he makes up for in intelligence, composure and pace. If Wenger wants a centre back, there are few better options on the market this summer than a 24-year-old World Cup winner with Champions League experience.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by chao1989.
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