Shkodran Mustafi insists criticism of Arsenal’s defence doesn’t get to him because it’s just an unavoidable part of the life of a centre-back.
Speaking ahead of the Europa League final against Chelsea, Mustafi talked about the criticism the Arsenal defenders have come in for this season. Despite scoring more goals than the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League, the Gunners ended up finishing below both after conceding 12 more than each of them.
Clearly, if Arsenal hadn’t conceded quite so many goals, they could’ve made up the one or two-point gap to finish above one or both of their London rivals. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.
Nonetheless, Mustafi insists the criticism is more down to the fact that there’s more focus on defensive errors than anything good players do at the back.
“For me personally, it’s not getting to me,” Mustafi said. “Our job as defenders is, of course, to try not to concede goals. If you make 90 per cent of your job and the 10 per cent your opponent scores a goal, people forget about the 90 per cent.
“At the end of the season if you make 70 points it’s for a reason, so I don’t think if the back is not doing its job you don’t make 90 per cent, because if you go into the game without the defence and only with attacking players I’m not sure you make 70 points.”
The German defender went on to compare the way the fans and the media treat defenders with the way they treat strikers.
“If a striker misses a goal, a penalty or whatever, you get a new opportunity five minutes or 10 minutes later. For us as a defender, if you make one mistake and they score, you don’t have the opportunity five minutes later and even if you save something on the line, people won’t talk about it. You live and learn with it. It’s part of our job.”
Undoubtedly, there is some truth to all that. For all the goals they’ve scored this season, Arsenal’s strikers have also missed plenty of big chances, which could have got the Gunners into the top four just as easily as better defending would have.
People are rightly happy to gloss over that because of all the important goals Aubameyang and Lacazette have scored, but the same luxury often isn’t extended to the defenders who have made plenty of important tackles, interceptions and clearances.
Still, it would nice to have a night without any defensive errors to make up for on Wednesday.