Arsenal centre-back Shkodran Mustafi says criticism towards him has become “irrational” as he brushes off claims he is the ‘second-worst defender in world football’.
The Germany international was recently voted by 150,000 people as the second-worst defensive player of the season in a poll conducted Spanish publication Marca, with Manchester United’s Phil Jones taking the unwanted top spot.
Is Mustafi the ‘world’s second-worst defender’? Five things to know…
- Mustafi came in for widespread criticism from Arsenal fans last season for his below-average performances.
- Such was his poor form, Jamie Carragher described him as a “mess”.
- A fan even set up an online petition calling for Mustafi to be sent to jail for life as a result of his footballing incompetence.
- Recently Mustafi was voted as the second-worst defensive player of the season in a poll conducted by Marca.
- But Mustafi has kept three clean sheets in three appearances this season and says criticism towards him has become “irrational”.
Mustafi, who is yet to play a single Premier League minute this season and has fallen down Unai Emery’s pecking order, was quick to admit that his form has dipped in recent times, but says recent criticism does not concern him.
“In the first two years after my move to Arsenal in 2016, things went very well for me,” Mustafi told German outlet Speigel.
“But shortly after Christmas 2018 there was a kink. I’ve made a few mistakes and they’ve created a mess that I’ve never experienced before.”
Mustafi highlighted the 5-1 defeat to Liverpool in December 2018 as one of the games in which he suffered a torrent of abuse in the immediate aftermath, though he claims he was unfit for the trip to Anfield and only featured to help Emery out at the time.
He added: “I had missed three weeks injured and then went into the game without training with the team because the coach needed me.
“At half-time it was 4-1, I had a few bad moments and 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 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 I had not played in at all.”
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Mustafi this season
With Emery favouring a centre-back pairing of summer recruit David Luiz and Sokratis in the league, Mustafi has been reduced to appearances in cup competitions.
So far the 27-year-old has featured in Europa League thrashings over Eintracht Frankfurt and Standard Liege, as well as the rout over Nottingham Forest in the League Cup, with the Gunners keeping clean sheets in all three of those matches.
Mustafi may therefore have a point that criticism towards him has been a tad over-the-top, with the centre-back listed as the ‘world’s second-worst defender’ this term despite performing his duties to a tee in each of his three games.
Shkodran Mustafi for Arsenal this season in all competitions:
• 3 games
• 3 clean sheets
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 3, 2019
And, despite an acceptance of his recent poor performances last term, Mustafi says he still has faith in his ability to play at the very top of the game.
He said: “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, you would never have been a world champion and Arsenal player, something must have brought you here’. Since then I can handle it better.”