The international break is well and truly upon us with the local press abuzz. Interviews, frequently more honest and often more indiscreet, fill the back pages.
Shkodran Mustafi turned up in Der Speigel but then it was a talk which might have taken place at any time; the German is no longer required by Joachim Löw, which comes of no surprise to anyone, least of all himself.
It’s a fairly open and honest interview. I didn’t know, for instance, that a Marca poll voted him the second-worst defender in the world. To be fair, I’m struggling to think who would rank lower. Turns out it was Phil Jones which I won’t argue with.
The actual interesting part was the talk of social media. It is easy to say players should ignore it but with the effort invested in brands, it is impossible. Then there is the human element; in the public eye, you’d need skin thicker than a rhino to completely ignore what is being said about you.
As Mustafi says,
I would like to see more restrictions [on the internet] in the future. What’s on the internet will never disappear. And I’m worried that this will eventually affect my children.Mustafi on when jokes go too far
There is the rub. There’s always someone’s family catching the flak when jokes turn nasty; go beyond the pale and turn into abuse. Then there are those who don’t even mask vitriol with some semblance of humour.
‘Twas ever thus and reflects our society as a whole. Which makes no excuse for that behaviour nor justifies it; that is an observation.
Movers and Shakers
The German spoke about his future at the club and what happened over the course of the summer. Months in which you remember Unai Emery made it patently obvious Mustafi had no future at Arsenal. It earned the Spaniard much criticism; it wasn’t deemed to be the ‘Arsenal Way’.
Mustafi took the hint:
“No option that would have satisfied all sides” is an interesting statement. The club accepted, he didn’t? Vice versa? It’s hard to see Arsenal putting up much resistance since the imperative was to reduce the wage bill.
Throughout the whole interview, it’s clear he still believes he can play at the highest level. Redemption may yet come but the dynamic of a move is weighted against him. For a start, Bundesliga clubs must show an interest in him and his wretched form won’t help him.
As he observed, his cup games ended with clean sheets. Mustafi played reasonably well, better than previously but the proviso is, of course, the standard of opposition. None tested Arsenal particularly although Eintracht may dispute that.
Mustafi seeks the positives in those performances and why not? “This is a ray of hope that things are going up again,” he said.
However, Arsenal must move as well as a realistic assessment of his own ambitions. As a club, we know we will not recover much of the €40m transfer fee we paid Valencia. Some, sure, but I’d tip my hat if it were more than half that sum.
His, you’d think, is an easy deal to make. A player who wants to leave and a club keen to sell; what can possibly go wrong? Ask Liam Fox, he knows all about easy deals.
Making Plans for Shkodran
Selling is vital to our plans for next summer. Willy Saliba joins from Saint-Etienne which, along with Holding and Chambers, give us a good core for the first XI. Experience in the shape of Luiz and Sokratis as back-up or even competing for places adds to the depth.
We can’t, however, ignore poor form this season but eight games in, it’s hard to form a judgement on how they will be next season. Beyond being uncertain of their first-team place, that is.
The overhaul of the squad is vital next summer, not just in refreshing the players but also in progression in the Premier League. Finishing in the top four is once again in our hands; whether we take the chance this time is yet to be decided.
Irrespective of that answer, there is a swathe of players heading for the exit. This is the final shakedown of those who craved and received indulgence previously. It’s not dissimilar to the feeling as George Graham shook the cobwebs from Don Howe’s squad and began promoting youth.
Obviously, the question is whether Emery is the coach to do that. Raul and Edu may decide to continue one final season with Unai, to see if a plan can emerge rather than his unshakeable pragmatism of tinkering depending on the opposition.
There is a genuine opportunity to build something at Arsenal in the next 12 months. We don’t have the cash to compete with oil money or marketing. That is no change from the past decade but this time, we seem to have shrewd operators rather than glib chatterboxes to spend the transfer budget.
The youth is ready to be promoted to augment experience so it remains only for quality to be added.
Time will tell whether the current regime is capable of that.