After the Foxes defeat, it’s difficult to have positive thoughts about this Arsenal team. The only exception to the rule is Leno, who conceded three again, but comes out smelling of roses, as Gooners can only sympathise with the lack of protection offered by what’s in front of him.
However, I do think a lot of the Mustafi criticism is over-the-top. The German is not a complete liability, as he proved in the second half, playing out of position, against Leicester. Anyone who saw Senderos and Stepanovs play for Arsenal in the past will testify that the club has persevered with worse defenders.
The problem Mustafi has is he’s playing in an average team. Who in the defence or midfield is outstanding? Koscielny seems to be past his sell-by date, judging by his performance in the second half. Injuries have taken their toll. Additionally, who can forget how the Frenchman’s defensive mix-up with Szczesny led to an embarrassing cup final defeat against Birmingham? For some reason, Gooners let bygones by bygones when it comes to Kos, who was just learning his trade then.
Likewise, Mustafi is still learning. He won’t reach his peak until he’s around 30. Gary Neville, Mustafi’s old boss at Valencia, had some complimentary things to say about the German and the TV pundit doesn’t usually hold back from criticising players.
Going back to blasts from the past, for a moment, the difference for Mustafi compared with Senderos and Stepanovs is all the German’s mistakes are amplified, as there is no one able to win the ball back once it’s lost.
Looking through the team, it’s difficult to see anyone who is playing with confidence. Sokratis is probably the least affected by the recent poor run of form, but even he looks like he’s given up the ghost.
One other reason for Arsenal’s poor results could be ‘semi-final-itis’. Seeing two big games on the horizon, some of the team may be saving themselves for that.
The irony is football is a game of confidence and Arsenal’s is shot to pieces, perhaps because players have one eye on the two-legged semi-final against Valencia.
On current form, only a fool would bet on Arsenal, but players don’t become useless overnight. Somehow, Unai Emery needs to convince his team that they can progress to the final as, otherwise, more embarrassing defeats lie ahead.