Shkodran Mustafi has given an interview to Der Spiegel in which he defends himself, saying he’s ‘not the second worst defender in the world’ which means he’s just going to be inundated with people telling him he’s the worst.
Shkodran Mustafi deserves a lot of credit.
Piled on by Arsenal fans, he was told he wasn’t wanted by the club but, when called upon, he has performed to a high professional level and even managed to play in three games with three cleansheets.
He is, of course, not the long-term answer to Arsenal’s defensive woes, but while he’s capable of the most ridiculous errors on a regular basis, he really isn’t the worst in the world (or the second worst).
Reading his interview it becomes clear that the ‘second worst’ nonsense comes from a Marca poll with Mustafi pipped to the wooden spoon by Manchester United’s Phil Jones. Der Spiegel ask him about this.
“I would think about it if that had been a poll among the best coaches in Europe,” he replies. It wasn’t, it was voted on by plebs like you and me.
“In the first two years after my move to Arsenal in 2016, things went very well for me. I saw myself as a performer. But shortly after Christmas 2018 there was a kink. I’ve made a few mistakes and they created a mess that I’ve never experienced before.
“I had missed three weeks injured and then went into the game without training with the team because the coach needed me. At halftime it was 1:4, I looked a few times not good and have injured myself again. Afterwards, I got a lot of negative comments from Arsenal fans on Instagram and Twitter. And articles were written in which I was harshly criticised.
“I’m self-critical enough to realise that I made those mistakes. I can also deal with tough criticism. But the criticism has become escalated and irrational. I have become a target. At some point, people even blamed me for a defeat and I had not played at all.
“There were days when I really doubted something about myself. But at some point I realised that I am mentally strong. Something my wife said helped me a lot: “If you were really as bad as people are making you out to be, you would never have been a World Champion and Arsenal player, something must have brought you here.” Since then I can handle it better.
“You have to learn to use emotions properly. When I was flying highm I used the positive emotions to improve myself. They inspire me. And now that I’m down, the negative emotions should also motivate me. I said to myself: I do not want to sit in the cabin again and feel guilty about my colleagues. That drives me too.”
The 27-year-old will have a year left on his Arsenal contract by the end of the season but it does seem likely Arsenal will try to move him on in the January window.
Until then, it might behove us all, myself included, to tone it down a little and remember that this is an actual real human being we’re tearing into on a regular basis.