There is plenty of time for nostalgia right now.
With not a football being kicked nationwide, we have nothing but memories of the game to keep us sated as we wait for our Arsenal to return.
So now seems the perfect time to look over the season – especially as we have no end in sight to the preventative measures that have put a hiatus on the current campaign.
In particular, who has been the standout player in each respective position?
Let’s look at our defence.
We began the season under Unai Emery and things started brightly – two wins on the bounce and a clean sheet on our travels too. But things soon unraveled, and we slid down the table as results worsened. Player morale sank and others were left out of the squad and lineup with alarming frequency.
This continued until the situation became untenable and it was clear that Emery had lost the dressing room. The Spanish coach was dismissed with results being the number one concern, but our defence had become a laughing stock. Game after game their was panic at the back, and lesser sides took great glee at plundering us. Territory given, shots fired with alacrity, we were all at sea.
Freddie Ljungberg stepped in while the chase for a new man at the helm proceeded and we improved a little. A few subtle changes, in both lineup and tactic, made a difference. The amount of shots we were giving away reduced and we looked better.
Then, former player Mikel Arteta was sworn in and his talk, his manifesto and his knowledge filled not only our fans with optimism, but our players too.
Fast forward to our present day, and our defence is keeping clean sheets with a frequency that didn’t seem possible a few months back.
Is it down to probable player of the year nominee, Bernd Leno? Not solely, but the German keeper deserves a lot of credit for stepping up and showing his pedigree.
No, our defence and midfield have improved hugely.
Our backline especially has shown they have what it takes, in the face of cutting criticism from all corners.
David Luiz, labelled as a dud who was better in midfield than in a four man defence, has shown leadership qualities and despite being the new guy, has looked every bit an Arsenal man.
Sokratis has kept up his consistent levels and his aerial quality has not dampened. He has flitted in and out of the side all season, but the Greek never fails to give everything he has got.
Calum Chambers started the season so well, but a cruel injury curtailed his season with him comfortably outperforming his defensive cohorts.
But it has been Shkodran Mustafi who has held the line in both offside trap and performance. The German looked every inch a departure just months back. We even worried if we could find a buyer for the defender who didn’t look capable of putting in a shift without a mistake.
Now, with five clean sheets in our last seven games, it has been Mustafi who has been the standout performer. Both on the deck and in the air, he has bested whoever he has faced on the pitch.
Mustafi has always had it in his locker. We have seen it often. What we haven’t seen is the ability to weed out the errors which have blighted his time at Arsenal. We needed to see the player who was part of the German World Cup winning squad.
We have got that player, and he has shown remarkable character in standing tall under considerable pressure from experts and even his own fans.
Shkodran Mustafi has been our best defender this season, despite not playing for half of it. That is how good he has been – and how strong his response has been.