There is still work to do for Arsene Wenger in the transfer window, as it is clear his squad isn’t as strong as it needs to be. They will be targeting a title challenge this season and to do so, they need to strengthen their defence. Per Mertesacker was ruled out for the opening months of the season with a knee injury, which leaves the Gunners short at the back. They would have liked to have improved their defensive options anyway, but the injury to the German has increased their need for a new centre back. Shkodran Mustafi appears to be at the top of their wish list after the club opened talks with Valencia.
At the moment the club have Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel, Calum Chambers and Rob Holding as centre back options. Only Koscielny has had a regular run in the team and the others have yet to show that they can be regulars in the top flight. Also Laurent Koscielny has yet to join up with the squad after Euro 2016 and his fitness may be lacking as the season kicks off. It is crucial the side sign a new centre back before their opening match against Liverpool, and Mustafi could be a good solution.
The German international could be available for an initial fee of £25m with performance based add ons, which is lower than his release clause at the club. Mustafi was an Everton academy graduate and will be familiar with the demands of English football, despite him not making a first team appearance at Goodison Park. He has since excelled in both Italian and Spanish football, showing his adaptability in different leagues. The English league would represent a much bigger test in terms of physicality, but Mustafi should be able to adapt.
Mustafi is a conservative defender, and prefers to play a deeper role in defence, rather than rushing out to close down the ball. He reads the game well, as shown by his average of 4.4 interceptions per game in the league last season. The German is also an effective tackler, and wins the ball back frequently for his side. In terms of his attacking threat, Mustafi poses one from set pieces, and is effective in the air defensively as well. He showed this side of the game at the Euros as he scored in Germany’s opening match. Mustafi is comfortable on the ball and capable of playing out from the back, which is important in the Arsenal side.
He can play at full back as well, offering versatility to the squad, making him a more appealing option to Arsene Wenger. On the other hand, there are problems in Mustafi’s game, with his discipline a major concern last season. He received 14 yellow cards in La Liga and this is an area he would need to improve on if he arrives in England. The Valencia player likes to tackle, but does give away free kicks in dangerous areas. He would need to restrain his style at Arsenal.
Arsenal face a huge month as they attempt to bring in a couple of quality additions to aid their title challenge. A centre back and a striker are required at least. The club made a great start bringing in Granit Xhaka, strengthening an area that they were weak in last season. They may also look to bring in a right winger with Riyad Mahrez being heavily linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal have shown to be reluctant to pay inflated fees and it will be interesting to see if they agree a fee for Mustafi. The centre back market is perhaps the toughest, with the inflated fees and lack of options, but Mustafi looks to have the profile that will fit in well at Arsenal.