Analysis: Wenger ‘Hopes’ To Conclude Signing Of €30m Defender Soon, How He’ll Fit In


Arsenal could be closing in on their second big money signing of the summer after Arsene Wenger admitted he hoped to conclude a deal for a defender soon.

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The Gunners invested more than £30million in Granit Xhaka earlier in the summer, but since then they have struggled to secure their targets with the likes of Jamie Vardy opting against moving to the Emirates.

On Mustafi potentially joining the Gunners, Wenger told French TV station SFR Sport: “Mustafi? We hope it will be done,” – quotes via the London Evening Standard.

The Gunners have been linked with a move for Mustafi for some time and rumours have intensified since injuries to Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista were sustained. Arsene was forced to field the inexperienced duo of Calum Chambers and Rob Holding in the clubs season opener and this led to the team conceding 4 goals. Arsenal visibly lacked defensive experience on the pitch and the addition of Mustafi, a World Cup winner, would certainly go some way to addressing that issue.

Although he is only 24, Mustafi has plenty of top level experience having been a regular for Valencia and Sampdoria. He also has 12 international caps and is only behind Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng in the pecking order for Joachim Low.

Before I go into the statistical analysis, I wanted to stress how you cannot draw too many conclusions from statistics. The amount of defending Valencia had to do in comparison to Arsenal last season will help and hinder Mustafi in different areas. One thing we do know is that Mustafi is dominant in the air. Despite only standing at just over 6ft, he managed to win a massive 72.5% of his aerial duels last season, only Mertesacker (77.6%) of the Arsenal defenders were more efficient in the air. Gabriel managed to win just 61.25% and Koscielny 64.37%.

Mustafi loves to get stuck in, and he managed 1.71 tackles per 90 last season, Gabriel was second (1.43), Mertesacker third (1.06) and Koscielny surprisingly last (0.82). Only Koscielny (0.85) made more blocks than Mustafi last season (0.74). The statistics where Mustafi really stands out though is in his interceptions, he managed a huge 4.46 per 90 last season. Koscielny is also well known for his interception ability, he averaged 3.99 last season. Gabriel is third with 3.16, whilst Mertesacker is some way behind (1.58). It shows how well he reads the game and typically of Germans, he has a great understanding of the game and how to manage it.

These statistics show that Mustafi would be a good partner for Koscielny, as he compliments him well. He has similar attributes to Mertesacker, but the Valencia defender has more pace and that will certainly help Arsenal play with the high line they like to deploy, something that allows them to dominate games and peg opponents back.

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What is also good is that Mustafi favours playing as a right-sided central defender and Koscielny favours playing on the left. This means the duo would not have to adjust where they play if they are partnered together.

One area Mustafi will need to work on if he joins Arsenal is his passsing. His pass completion rate last season was 81%, the other Arsenal defenders were close to 90% and although Mustafi’s lower percentage could be down to the way that Valencia played last season, Arsene Wenger will demand more reliability on the ball from the German if he is to succeed in an Arsenal side that loves to domiante the game.

Crucially though, Mustafi only made 0.03 defensive errors per 90 last season, that is less frequent than any Arsenal defender. Arsenal fans will hope they can tie up the signing of Mustafi and as a result of his addition, the club makes less defensive errors. Ultimately Mustafi needs to be an upgrade on Mertesacker and if he is, he could be a perfect partner and foil for the excellent Laurent Koscielny. The Gunners have the likes of Rob Holding and Calum Chambers coming through the ranks but they still need to mature.

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