This story first appeared in the October edition of the Arsenal Magazine.
Broadcaster and host of Arsenal Fan TV
I think Arsenal’s business in the transfer window turned out to be good. I believe Shkodran Mustafi will prove himself to be a very good signing. He’s a World Cup winner already and can cover centre half and right back too. I’m excited to see how Lucas gets on and I’ve got to say that Rob Holding has really impressed me so far. In fact I believe he could prove to be one of the bargains of the window. What I like about Holding is how composed he is. He can bring the ball out from the back and is good in the air too. But, I’ve picked Granit Xhaka for a few reasons.
Firstly, he’s such a commanding player in his position. I feel like we’ve never really had a strong leader there since Patrick Vieira – and I believe Xhaka could be that guy. He was excellent for Switzerland in the Euros and what really stood out for me was that he was the leader of that team. He was excellent at Borussia Monchengladbach too. I think we’ve needed someone like Xhaka for a long time, a player who leads by example and has a commanding presence.
It’s rare to have those credentials in your early twenties. Leadership is something that people sometimes get confused. Running around and shouting doesn’t make you a leader – a leader is somebody who doesn’t shirk their duties, who is an example to follow and ensure that everybody else gives 100 per cent. I think in Xhaka we’ve found that, and that’s the key reason behind my belief that he’s the most important acquisition we made in the summer window. I really like his style of play too.
You can see that he’s very strong but his range of passing is excellent. He’s not just a strong enforcer – his distribution and intelligence on the ball is really impressive. I feel that will set him apart. Against Watford, some of his passes were incredible. And he moves the ball quickly, which is really important at a team like Arsenal.
LUIS BOA MORTE
Former Arsenal winger who now scouts for the club
I think Shkodran Mustafi will be the most crucial signing this season. He’s a Germany international who has shown he’s a very tough defender, and he can bring something new to the team with his tenacity.
We’ve also had a few injuries in that position so that will definitely make him more important. Of course everyone in the squad is important and I’m sure all of the signings we’ve made will go on to make a big contribution this season, but at the moment it looks like Shkodran will have the biggest impact because of the injuries we’ve suffered to Per Mertesacker and Gabriel. He’s also arrived at a similar time of the season to Per Mertesacker a few seasons ago and look at what he’s gone on to achieve.
Per is now the captain of the club and has also starred in two FA Cup-winning teams, so I’m excited to see what Shkodran becomes at this club. Of course there’s going to be a settling in period for him because the English league is such a nice proposition at first, but it’s not that easy. It’s a fast pace and very physical, so we shouldn’t put too much pressure on him to begin with.
Once he’s settled, though, I have no doubt that he will be a perfect Premier League player. It looks like he could line up alongside Laurent Koscielny and on paper that’s a solid defensive partnership. The problem for them is that one speaks French and one speaks German, but once they work out how they’re communicating on the pitch I’m sure they’ll be important for Arsenal in the next few years to come. Koscielny has been playing well for France and looked so commanding in the Euros too, so he’s a great player for Shkodran to learn from.
Like his new partner, Laurent had to adapt to a new league and a new level of physicality, so this could be the start of a brilliant new partnership at the back.
Of course it’s a bit of a shame for Rob Holding because he’s been playing so well in Per and Gabriel’s absence, but that’s just football, unfortunately. Injuries happen and new players come in, so there’s nothing you can do to prevent that. Still, from Rob’s point of view, being able to learn from a World Cup winner is not a bad situation to be in as a young defender, and the increased competition should help him grow even more as a player.
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