The international break is a turgid time for most fans, but Arsenal’s social media team have been working hard to keep us entertained in the gap between Gunners fixtures.
A recent article that surfaced originally on the Arsenal app, was an interview with Shkodran Mustafi,speaking to Arsenal Player, and the amount of work that is now going into our defensive work before games.
Unai Emery is well documented to enjoy video’s as an effective research tool on opposition attackers, and the German defender went to great length to inform us all that while we are still far from the finished article at the back, the Spanish coach is making sure his defenders are well schooled and equipped before every game.
Mustafi said to Arsenal Player “You focus on little details. If he’s right footed, left footed, if he likes to dribble at you or if he’s someone who goes direct, short or goes deep.”
“That’s the detail I’m looking for. Obviously as a defender you’re focusing on the one you’re playing against and trying to win that battle. That’s what it’s all about and it makes it even more difficult for us.”
Mustafi has been much maligned in the past for some errors, but he revealed how hard he and his fellow defenders are working to ensure they are as well equipped as they can be, saying “When you’re on the pitch, you’re kind of nervous until the game starts and then with the first touch it goes a little bit. Most of the time I’m really just thinking of myself and what I want to do because in modern football, if you want to defend, it’s about being an active defender, putting the striker where you want him. Don’t let him decide, you have to make him decide. that’s the thing I’m focusing on.”
By the sounds of Mustafi’s comments, it sounds as if Mustafi is still the defender most equipped to quell attacks early, but how can Emery school the bad errors of judgement that the German is prone to when making these early decisions?
Mustafi did not comment on his own strengths and weaknesses, but did speak of the the training that is aimed at forging a cohesive backline. Mustafi said “As a centre half, we’re a little bit bigger and not as quick as the strikers, and when the opponent is playing with a striker that likes to play a lot of short passes and run quickly down the channels, , that’s a thing that for me is really difficult to defend against. It’s no longer one against one, it’s more and you’ve got to be comfortable in the back four and give quick info to your teammate playing next to you.”
The German continued, “When it goes through passes and there are quick 1-2’s, you can’t defend against it on your own. until you give your teammate that info, there’s always one or two seconds where you might lose your opponent and he goes through. that’s the most difficult style you have to play against as a defender.”
Mustafi was very candid about the new methods he and his teammates have been trained with by Emery, and he commented on how teamwork is improving the teamwork aspect of our defence;
“Defending is something enjoyable when you defend as a whole team. When you’re compact as a team, defending the loose space and defending in the one vs one’s, I find that I quite enjoy it because it’s something I like,”
Mustafi has a fight on his hands this season to keep his place in the first team, with Rob Holding playing exceptionally well and Sokratis showing excellent signs since signing in the summer.
Interview courtesy of Arsenal Player.