UNAI EMERY has launched a passionate defence of Arsenal’s underfire defender Shkodran Mustafi.
Mustafi has had a shocking season for the Gunners and was at fault for Wilf Zaha’s goal for Crystal Palace in their 3-2 home defeat last weekend.
Getty – Contributor2 Much-criticised Shkodran Mustafi has earned strong praise from Unai Emery
Getty – Contributor2 Shkodran Mustafi took a mauling as his slip let in Wilf Zaha for a Palace goal
Supporters have turned on the German international while former England centre-back Jamie Carragher said “he’s been a mess since he joined the club”.
However, Emery says he is 100 percent behind Mustafi, who cost £35m from Valencia in 2016, and says he is being vilified for his mistakes.
He said: “I want to protect the players. Mustafi is a very good player, a very good centre-back.
“He has the habit — usually he is doing the sliding tackle and using anticipation against the opposition.
“He can win one, win two, win three, win four — but if he loses one he is the focus and if he concede a goal he is the big picture.
“I have spoken to him: ‘You are young, you can improve and you need to work hard because you have a big quality for a centre-back’
“For example, at Watford, he was the best of the 28 players, the best and he won all of the balls in the air with his head, that is a very good statistic for him.
“He is young, he is improving and Sunday he is in the big picture because of the second goal.
“Who is in this picture? Mustafi – but it’s not his mistake. The mistake was tactical because we need to protect him with two centre-backs against Zaha.
“I protect him because I believe in him. He needs to improve things tactically, decision-making, but he has good quality.”
STOP PERSONAL INSULTS
Emery has also called on the club’s fans to stop blasting the defender on social media whenever he slips up.
He added: “We need our supporters to help us. I know we are the actors, and the actor needs to be strong.
“First, when we win they are telling us we are the best, we have a record, we have a possibility to be third in the table – OK, that is good.
“But it’s the moment when we can take the balance in the middle because when we aren’t in this position, the criticism is coming at us, it is the moment to have balance.
“I know it is not easy and they are going to criticise when they are in the stadium and also when they are watching on TV.
“But we need also to learn to receive criticism. For us we need to protect and know that all the supporters they can do that be personal insults I don’t agree with.”
Emery’s side face Wolves on Wednesday night and he is staying tight-lipped about his team’s plans through their opponents will get the upper hand.
The Spaniard was quizzed what players were back in for contention but refused to divulge any information about his tactics.
most read in footballrocket man Shane Long scores fastest Prem goal ever after just seven seconds at Watford TABLES TURNED Sky's Cates recreates viral Carra and Nev video but this time SHE walks away PicturedRED NEV Neville arrives at Utd training for awkward confrontation with players after rant ExclusivePERV'S PLAN Footy paedo Adam Johnson 'desperate for comeback as coach or agent' GossipBilly Mo Mates Mo Salah and Liverpool boss Klopp reportedly 'no longer get on' Live BlogUnited news Man Utd transfer news LIVE – Latest updates from Old Trafford
He said: “We are going to wait. I am not telling you what our idea is with the players, with the system, with the injured players or the first XI.
“I want to keep all information to myself for tomorrow.
"Sorry, I think it’s better for us. I don’t want to be clear on how the players are. I prefer it. It’s not you, it’s for our opposition.”
Arsenal (3-4-3): Leno; Sokratis, Koscielny, Mustafi; Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Torreira, Kolasinac; Ozil, Lacazette, Aubameyang.