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Arsenal had a real chance of getting a good result or even a draw on Saturday if it weren’t for Shkodran Mustafi’s reckless defending. The German international centre-back was the prime reason behind the 3-1 loss to the Red Devils at Emirates.
Despite Antonio Valencia giving Manchester United the lead within the first 4 minutes, Arsenal still looked like they’d come back on level terms, with Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette looking more and more threatening by the minute. But just 7 minutes after Valencia’s first goal, Jesse Lingard doubled the lead for the visitors and gave the Gunners a mountain to climb.
Adding to the embarrassment, the £25.2m rated Mustafi limped off the field with an apparent injury, soon after conceding the second goal. Many fans have argued that Mustafi might have just faked an injury to escape his embarrassing defending.
Arsene Wenger had to replace the German defender, who earns £90,000-a-week, with Alex Iwobi to add some attacking element and keep themselves in the game. Although Alexandre Lacazette managed to grab a goal in the 49th minute, the Red Devils capitalised on Arsenal’s vulnerable defence as Jesse Lingard scored his second goal of the night and killed any hope of a Gunners recovery.
Arsenal continued to dominate but David de Gea’s resilience in goal kept out the likes of Sanchez, Lacazette, Ozil and even Giroud from finding the back of the net.
Mustafi’s irresponsible defending not only cost the Gunners 3 crucial points in the race for top 4 but also put them a step back in convincing the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to sign a new contract before the January transfer window. Although Arsenal had an eye-catching attacking display in the second half, individual defensive errors will continue to cost the Gunners in the future if players like Mustafi remain at the Emirates.
The 25-year-old’s defensive errors were simply careless and completely avoidable and there is no way the German can fix the damage already done. With confidence already down and the fan backlash, it will be really hard for Mustafi to make a strong comeback.
It’s not just Mustafi but the whole Arsenal backline that needs a revamp, with a lot of quality to be added, as Mertesacker is set to retire at the end of the season. Arsenal have endured enough punishment from their defenders in recent times and Arsene Wenger must dive into the January transfer window for established defenders if he wants to keep the club’s top-4 chances alive.