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“We have not closed any deal with anybody at the moment,” said Arsene Wenger, when the press inquired whether Arsenal were closing in on a deal for Shkodran Mustafi. “Speaking about Mustafi – Mustafi or anybody else – we have not concluded anything at the moment.”
The ever so shrewd Arsenal manager gave away nothing. However, with the manager admitting that he is scouring the transfer market for defensive reinforcements in light of Per Mertesacker’s lengthy injury layoff, Arsenal will definitely bring in a centre-back before the transfer window slams shut.
Many names, including former Manchester United castaway Jonny Evans has been mentioned, but rumours linking Mustafi seem the most believable although well-known Arsenal insider Kike Marin thinks otherwise.
What does he offer?
At 24 years of age, he already has plenty of top-level experience in him, being an ever-present fixture in Champions League regular Valencia’s first-team and having lifted the World Cup with Germany in 2014.
On top of his experience – a factor the Arsenal manager is drooling over lately – he shows maturity beyond his age on the pitch, as evidenced by his brilliant reading of the game that also enables him to intercept at crucial situations.
Known for his composure on the ball, he is an excellent passer – he averaged 80 percent pass completion last season.
Despite standing at only 6 feet tall, his aerial ability stands out thanks to his positional awareness. Strong as he is, he prefers lunging into the perfect tackle that would dispossess the opponent elegantly rather than bullying them off the ball.
His slide tackles are always on point, and with Arsenal’s own slide tackle expert Tomas Rosicky having already gone through the exit door, his arrival will clog the hole.
How will he fit in?
Mertesacker is not getting any faster as he is turning 32 next month.
Arsenal already have two excellent readers of the game in Calum Chambers and Rob Holding on their books, who will likely go on to form a fearsome partnership in the near future.
However, Mertesacker’s long-term absence means Arsenal need an immediate solution, and the Valencia man will prove not just an immediate solution to their defensive woes but also a long-term one.
Will Valencia sell him?
Valencia finished twelfth in the Primera Division in the wake of many high-profile exits, including Mustafi’s partner-in-crime Nicolas Otamendi.
Letting him follow in his former partner’s footsteps to the Premier League will definitely not be on Pako Ayesteran’s mind.
However, because of Valencia’s need for acting in accordance with the Financial Fair Play regulations, they are now reportedly willing to part ways with their talisman, on a cut-price deal – he has a release clause of £42.1 million, but the club will consider offers in the region of £25.3 million.
Will he want to join Arsenal?
The German international has earned the spotlight at Valencia, where he averages a match rating of over 7.25 on WhoScored, after being released by Everton and having to ply his trade with Serie A mid-table club, Sampdoria.
However, after spending three seasons in Italy and two in Spain, he will now look forward to a new challenge in England.
Besides, the chance to learn under Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, the manager and Steve Bould will definitely make Arsenal an interesting option for the defender.
Written by Praveen Paramasivam
Follow Praveen on Twitter @49Praveen
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