After an expected but still somehow painful defeat by Manchester City (0:2) some questions popped up on daily basis again.
Is Arsenal’s defence good enough to compete for the top six in Premier League this season? Are the new signings Sokratis, Lichtsteiner, Guendouzi, Leno and Torreira the best choice for the club? Is Mustafi going to repeat the same old mistakes or will his partnership with Sokratis be better than the one with Koscielny?
Well, in this piece, we are going to talk about Mustafi and we will compare his stats to others centre-backs in the league.
Let’s take a closer look:
As we know, Mustafi started his third season as a centre-back for Arsenal in the season-opening game against Manchester City. This was his 76th competitive game with the Gunners but he couldn’t manage to show undeniably good performance.
He had 90% pass completion but the 3% difference with John Stones who had 93% seemed astronomical on the pitch. Mustafi is behind the Englishman in the aerial duels too. He managed to win 3 of them, while Stones won 4. The only defensive indicator that he topped was the tackles won – Mustafi 4, Stones 2. But it’s safe to say that he surely got more tries having in mind that The Citizens had 17 shots towards the goal, compared to only 9 for Arsenal. Including one by Mustafi. Both of them managed to do only 1 interception during the game. And again the German international needed to do more clearances – 5. Mustafi had to help on both sides as the left-back crisis got deeper once Ainsley Maitland-Niles got injured and Bellerin was often going up front. That’s why we’re not going too hard on him.
This fixture was the first competitive one for the Mustafi – Sokratis duo and we wanted to show why it seems like a better one than the Mustafi – Koscielny one.
We can see that both Shkodran and Sokratis have some better indicators than Koscielny.
The first two seasons of Mustafi, 2016/17 and 2017/18, were one of the worst for the defensive line. And the Mustafi-Koscielny partnership did not help so things get better. The safety that Koscielny had with Per Mertesacker alongside him was gone and he had a new partner to deal with. It may sound surprising but the ex-Valencia player couldn’t offer such protection at that time. Both Mustafi and Koscielny were not able to transform into deep-lying defenders and that was a problem. Seems like the new duo has a more similar style of play and that either means that they will get along and help the team or they will make the same mistakes and make it worse.
Although as we could see from the stats comparison – the Greek is more difficult to dribble past and his actions rarely turn as a defensive error that led to a goal. Sokratis won 1.84 tackles per 90 minutes and Mustafi goes behind with 1.79. The German international is better at winning aerial duels – 4.67 per 90, which is good because Papastathopoulos manages to win only 2.00 of them. One man’s weakness is another man’s strength, but as long as they cover each other back it will work out.
Surprisingly, compared to the other top teams’ centre-backs Mustafi has a better record for tackles, aerial duels and interceptions.
He won more tackles (1.79) than everyone among Dejan Lovren, Chris Smalling, Davinson Sanchez and Antonio Rudiger with the closes record to his one being 0.85 tackles won by Smalling. That is a pretty noticeable difference. He is way better in the aerial duels one with 4.67 per 90 minutes and Lovren with 4.40 right behind him. The same goes for the interceptions per 90.
City rivals’ Davinson Sanchez has a huge “defence score” compared to the others. According to Squawka he performed way better and has a score of 11.12 with Mustafi not even close to him – 5.25. Of course, a credit goes to the stability of his teammates too. Mustafi has the worst pass completion percentage among all. And both he and Lovren are on the bottom of one of the most important indexes – defensive errors. Mustafi made 0.8 defensive errors per 90 mins with only the Croatian international making more – 0.9.
The Arsenal’s defender seems to have some pretty good stats on his own but what matters most is the whole team performance. He has a huge responsibility at the back but he needs more support from the midfield. With the likes of the new signings Torreira and the young Guendouzi, there may be a positive change about it. It’s all about time.