It looks as if Shkodran Mustafi will be swapping Arsenal for Schalke today, reuniting with Sead Kolasinac and trying to drag the Bundesliga side to safety. It’ll be a tall order for the pair — Schalke are currently 9 points adrift of safety. According to German outlet Sport1, Mustafi has agreed to personal terms with Schalke, and he and Arsenal will mutually terminate his contract imminently. The move also frees up Schalke centerback Ozan Kabak to join Liverpool, seemingly on loan with an option to buy, for the rest of the season. Mustafi had been linked with a move to the Reds earlier this month as a short-term fix for their injury-depleted backline.
Hard as it may be to believe, Mustafi was one of the longer-tenured Arsenal players on the roster in terms of senior debut and had the 4th-most Premier League appearances of any current Gunner. He joined the club in August 2016 from Valencia. The Gunners went on a 22-match unbeaten run with Mustafi in the lineup to start his time in North London, a streak that bested Bacary Sagna’s 17-match mark for longest in club history. Since then, the results have been...mixed.
Mustafi was a capable and useful player at Arsenal. At times, he was the best, most important player on the pitch, the reason the team won. At others, his mistakes and error-prone play was “the reason” for poor results, at least as much as any one player can be responsible for the final score of a team game.
He took more than his fair share of abuse from pundits and fans for his play, something that Unai Emery revealed a while back took a mental toll on Mustafi, and something that makes me ashamed to be a football fan. “Supporters” go well over the line far too often. We forget players are people with feelings, trying to do their best at their jobs. To his credit, he always put on a happy, positive face and seemed to be a genuinely fun guy.
I always rated him higher than most, but his time at the club also leaves me disappointed, but probably not for the reason you think. He could have been more than he was. He had all the physical tools to be a star centerback — good tackler, strong in the air, decent with the ball at his feet, more than enough pace — but he couldn’t put it all together. He was always held back by the decision-making and could never seem to iron that “goal-costing mistake every handful of matches” out of his game.
Mustafi had pretty clearly fallen out of favor with Mikel Arteta; he hadn’t played for Arsenal in over a month and the club has a backlog of centerbacks. The move makes sense for both sides. The Gunners clear another older, unwanted player off the books, and Mustafi moves somewhere he’ll likely be a starter.
Best of luck in Germany, Shkodran.