Arsenal transfer rumour: ‘Most LaLiga interceptions in last two seasons’ – the defensive rock linked with the Gunners

10 Aug

Football stats experts WhoScored cast their eye over a player it seems Arsene Wenger is crying out for. Take a look at more Arsenal stats here and read on for the full SP on a defender currently linked with Arsenal


Arsenal’s annual injury crisis has come about earlier this season. Even before the Premier League has kicked off, the Gunners have significant problems in defence. Per Mertesacker and Gabriel and are sidelined at present, while Laurent Koscielny has been granted an extended leave of absence following France’s exploits at Euro 2016. Either way, Arsenal are short of centre-back options in the days building up to the league’s return.

Despite a reluctance to often spend big in the transfer window, Arsene Wenger needs to act accordingly in order to solidify the backline. It’s seen them strongly linked with a move for Valencia’s German centre-back Shkodran Mustafi as they strive to bolster the defence. Despite Valencia’s underwhelming season, the 24-year-old defender impressed, gaining a better WhoScored.com rating (7.33) than any other teammate last term.

Indeed, Mustafi has proven to be a beacon of consistency for Los Che since signing from Sampdoria two years ago. The centre-back has made more interceptions (226) than any other player in the last two La Liga seasons, reinforcing his statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘ball interceptions’. For a team of Arsenal’s ilk, this asset of Mustafi’s would be a huge boost to the Premier League side.

The Gunners favour a possession-based approach having averaged the most possession (56.9%) in the Premier League last season. It’s essential, therefore, that the centre-backs are capable of adopting a more measured approach to defending rather than a series of last ditch tackles in order to deny the opposition. Here, Mustafi thrives, with his intelligent reading of the game a stand out trait.

Not only does this pre-emptively limit the danger on his goal, but allows for the club to instigate attacks from the back rather than resort to lumping the ball forward. This is perhaps an area of improvement for Mustafi, whose pass success rate last season was a modest 81.3%. However, with more time on the ball and a higher standard of teammate both in defence and midfield to pass to, that figure would undoubtedly rise.

To an extent, this quality is crucial. Wenger has at his disposal sufficient midfield options when his side is in possession, with Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Mohamed Elneny and new signing Granit Xhaka all options in the deep-lying pair in Wenger’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Elneny had a better pass success rate (92.8%) than any Arsenal player in the Premier League last season, while only Cesc Fabregas (87.8) played more passes per 90 than Cazorla (85.5) of players to make 15 or more appearances in England’s top tier last term.

Xhaka, meanwhile, was top for accurate long balls per game (7.4) of outfield players in the Bundesliga last term. Evidently, a centre-back comfortable in possession and able to move the ball forward effectively is of the utmost importance for Arsenal and while Mustafi’s distribution is a slight concern, it’s an area of his game that can be improved upon with the right coaching.

Given Arsenal’s centre-back plight at this point in time, defensive reinforcements are vital if they are to launch an assault for the Premier League title. The club’s rivals for the crown have all strengthened accordingly, with the Gunners at risk of being left behind. Mustafi won’t come cheaply from Valencia, but he’s a player the north London side must invest in sooner rather than later.

For more stats on Shkodran Mustafi, click here to view his WhoScored.com player page

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