The Arsenal fans are feeling nervous in the Transfer Tavern as they prepare to face Manchester City for the second time in the space of just 5 days this evening.
Arsene Wenger welcomes Pep Guardiola to The Emirates Stadium tonight under slightly bizarre circumstances, as the two sides met in the final of the Carabao Cup last Sunday in a fixture which saw Man City record a comfortable 3-0 victory. In the aftermath of the final, both Arsene Wenger and Jack Wilshere lamented the standard of refereeing and used it as an excuse to explain the defeat, but in truth the players were simply outclassed on the day.
Ahead of City’s visit this evening, Wenger needs to critically assess their encounter last weekend when choosing his starting eleven, and if he wants to install a winning mentality into the club then he simply must drop Shkodran Mustafi tonight. The German international has divided opinion since he moved to North-London from Valencia in the summer of 2016, but the assessment of his performance was as unanimous as they come.
Mustafi (rated at £25.2m by Transfermarkt) almost single-handedly gifted City the opening goal of the game after 18 minutes, as his schoolboy defending allowed Aguero to first steal in behind and lob the ball over Ospina following a long-ball from Claudio Bravo. If Mustafi had positioned himself correctly then he would have been able to make a routine clearance following the long punt up-field, but instead, City were given a decisive advantage in the game.
Mistakes are part and parcel of the game, but the lack of fundamental defensive ability demonstrated by Mustafi was unforgivable, so Wenger must show that mistakes of this nature will not go unpunished by benching him this evening. However, if Wenger chooses to start Mustafi, he will be simply sending out a message to the players that they can essentially perform poorly without having to face consequences for their actions.
Wenger has the option to revert to a back four without Mustafi, or to bring Per Mertesacker back into the starting line-up to replace his fellow compatriot, so the Frenchman simply must send out a strong message to his players by dropping Mustafi this evening.