I was, I admit, suckered in by the headline. By the irony of the quote from the player involved, to the extent that I failed to check the site I was venturing to. That’s not entirely true; I was using an Incognito window so my tawdry secret was safe from prying eyes until now. However, who can resist anything where Shkodran Mustafi tells the world we can’t afford to make mistakes in Wednesday’s Europa League final.
I couldn’t. Then I found out that, more or less, those were the words he uttered. If we’re to avoid defensive errors, dare I suggest he be omitted from the starting XI? Do dare, do dare. A back five, for that is what Unai will surely choose, doesn’t need Mustafi. Monreal can complete the trio of centre-backs.
Focus on Cech v Leno for the goalkeeping slot meant Mustafi flew under the radar. Until now, that is. Now, after sticking his head above the parapet, the central defensive choice is in the spotlight. Koscielny and Sokratis are, so long as they are fit, automatic choices. Le Captain and Psycho, our murderous Greek.
Or that’s the reputation he’s earned himself. Slapping Marko Arnautovic when they were team-mates in Bremen to leaving Jurgen Klopp fearful in Dortmund; the Greek international is a winner. It underpins his philosophy:
My work is to defend. If this means sometimes I have to take a yellow card or do something that is not so good for me but good for the team, then I will. I hope fans understand football is not only a lot of technical things, that you have to do a lot of different things to win.”Sokratis on Football…
It’s a world away from his chain-smoking Brazilian namesake’s view of the game.
Boys From The Black Stuff
However, it is the ruthlessness we need to show and a willingness to get involved in the seamier side of the game which has long been missing at Arsenal. While we played nicely, other teams – Chelsea included – mastered the dark arts or indulged in blatant thuggery. It’s nice to see us fight back.
There’s a balance between the two. The dark arts backfired in Paris in 2006 when Jens Lehmann brought down Giuly. That and Thierry Henry missing several routine chances; routine for him, that is. We were underdogs that day, just as we are for this final. To make the most of those odds, make sure you visit newbettingoffers.co.uk where you will find the best bookmaker offers on the web.
Emery must decide whether to play a back four or five. Four didn’t work at Stamford Bridge but at the Emirates, shut Chelsea out. The bigger question is whether we can defend properly. Mustafi isn’t entirely daft or clueless about his job:
It’s going to be a game where one mistake punishes you and that’s why we’ve got to be very careful. Our job as defenders is to try not to concede goals, but if you make 90 per cent of your job and in the 10 per cent the opponent scores a goal, people forget about the 90 per cent.Mustafi and His Questionable Maths
90%? With our defensive record, it’s 75% at best and that’s collectively. Individually, I wouldn’t rate the German’s record at any higher than 60% on a good day with those being few and far between this season. That said, an extraordinary day in Baku if he plays might help us when it comes to selling him so fingers crossed, eh?
For what it’s worth, I don’t think he will play. A back four allows Emery more options in midfield and with Chelsea likely to start with Hazard in a central role, a back five is overkill defensively.
The Immutable Law of the Footballing Ex
At this point, Sarri will probably throw a spanner in the works and bring Giroud in, just to put the fear of the footballing gods into us fans. Not the players; that won’t faze them but us, those who believe the same pair of y-fronts are lucky and don’t wash them all the while we’re unbeaten? The immutable law of the footballing ex comes to life in the forefront of our minds and no matter what you do, there is no way of forcing it into the darkest corners of your mind where it can be forgotten.
The darkest corners are where UEFA lurk. Whichever way they try to cut this, choosing Baku as host city for this final – for any final – proved to be disastrous. Clubs returning tickets, sponsors returning tickets, disabled supporter access criticised, not just in the stadium but also the city’s transport network; all things undermined by the claim UEFA’s own asseswsors highlighted these issues as part of the bidding process.
That’s before the farce surrounding Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s safety.
UEFA continued their destructive path across football by banning Arsenal players from wearing pre-match training gear bearing the Armenian’s name. No show of solidarity with a team-mate is permitted in their dreary but harmonious footballing world.
A small show of defiance from the club and the players would go a long way in this instance. UEFA shafted everyone with this final, particularly us. A fine for showing solidarity? If we’re too hard up to pay it, launch a ‘Go Fund Me’ page, Vinai. Everyone will chip in a quid…