If you want an idea of how much Mikel Arteta has changed at Arsenal in a few weeks, then fans singing Shkodran Mustafi’s name as he was stretchered off against Bournemouth tells you all you need to know.
It wasn’t just that he was injured, seemingly badly, that earned the fans’ sympathy. They’d sung his name earlier in the game, too. Not because he was particularly good – he wasn’t, as usual – it’s just what Arteta has changed in us all.
After the game, Arteta was asked about the German’s injury, “They’re going to assess him between today [Monday] and tomorrow but when a player has to come off, normally with a central defender – hopefully I am wrong but – normally it’s not good news.
Flattened when Emi Martinez came to punch the ball, Mustafi landed badly, bending his ankle and causing what will no doubt turn out to be ligament damage. I know because I did the same thing a few months back, only my foot went the other way, back underneath me. I didn’t have to be stretchered anywhere, although I’d have appreciated it if one had been handy, but I did consider going to the hospital before dealing with it myself and hobbling around for over a month. There’s still pain there now if I extend it fully almost three months on.
Obviously, Mustafi has better medical care at his disposal, but the fact is he looked like he opened that joint right up, straining the ligaments, and if we see him back any sooner than around six weeks I’d be very surprised and that’s a generous estimate.
Arsenal, meanwhile, enjoyed a relatively comfortable evening against the Cherries and will now face Portsmouth in the fifth round of the FA Cup. Whether they will have any fit centrebacks by that point is another question entirely.