Interview

The detail behind our defensive plans

Most people don’t realise how much work defenders put into studying strikers.

Shkodran Mustafi recently sat down to tell us about just how much analysis is involved in the modern game.
 
“You focus on little details: if he’s right footed or left footed, if he likes he to dribble at you or if he’s someone who goes direct, short or goes deep,” Mustafi told Arsenal Player. “That’s the detail I’m looking for.
 
“Obviously, as a defender, you’re focusing on the one you’re playing against and trying to win the battle. That’s what it’s all about on the pitch and it makes it even more difficult for us.
 
“When you’re on the pitch, you’re kind of nervous until the game starts and then with the first touch it goes a little bit. Most of the time I’m really just thinking of myself and what I want to do because in modern football, if you want to defend, it’s about being an active defender, putting the striker where you want him. Don’t let him decide, you have to make him decide. That’s the thing I’m focusing on.
   
“As a centre half, we’re a little bit bigger and not as quick as the strikers, and when the opponent is playing with a striker that likes to play a lot of short passes and run quickly down the channels, that’s a thing which for me is really difficult to defend against. It’s no longer one against one, it’s more and you’ve got to be comfortable in the back four and give quick information to your team-mate playing next you.

“When it goes through passes and there are quick one-twos, you can’t defend against it on your own. Until you give your team-mate that information, there’s always one or two seconds where you might lose your opponent and he goes through. That’s the most difficult style you have to play against as a defender.

“Defending is something enjoyable when you defend as a whole team. When you’re compact as a team, defending the loose space and defending in the one against ones, I find that I quite enjoy it because it’s something that I like.”