SHKODRAN MUSTAFI has laughed off claims he is the “second worst defender in world football”.
The Arsenal star was voted second to only Manchester United’s Phil Jones in a poll over 150,000 people took part in on Marca as determine the poorest defensive performers so far this season.
2 Shkodran Mustafi has laughed off claims he is the second worst defender in the worldCredit: AFP
2 Manchester United's Phil Jones finished in top spot in the online poll ran by MarcaCredit: AFP
Now the German, 27, has spoken to Spiegel in his homeland to insist the online poll does not concern him – although he did admit his form has not been his best over the past 12 months.
Mustafi said: “In the first two years after my move to Arsenal in 2016, things went very well for me, but shortly after Christmas 2018 there was a kink. I've made a few mistakes and they've created a mess that I've never experienced before.”
His woes arguably began when he was run ragged by Liverpool’s attack in a 5-1 thrashing at Anfield in December 2018 – but the centre-back had an explanation for his display as he took a swipe at his social media trolls.
He explained: “I had missed three weeks injured and then went into the game without training with the team because the coach needed me.
“At half-time it was 4-1, I had a few bad moments and injured myself again. Afterwards, I got a lot of negative comments from Arsenal fans on Instagram and Twitter, and articles were written in which I was harshly criticised.
I've made a few mistakes and they've created a mess that I've never experienced before.
“I'm self-critical enough to realise that I made mistakes. I can also deal with tough criticism. But the criticism has become escalated and irrational. I have become a target. At some point, people even blamed me for a defeat I had not played in at all.”
The passionate Gunner continued: “Football has become more inhumane… Social media has also contributed to this, because anyone can comment, without names. People can unload their frustrations directly on us.
“It is no longer about the sport, but only to discredit someone to get as many likes as possible. I would like to see more restrictions in the future. What's on the internet will never disappear. And I'm worried that this will eventually affect my children.”
Mustafi still has every confidence he can overcome his struggles and return to top form with the Gunners under Unai Emery.
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And he believes the dark days are over thanks to the support of his wife Vjosa Kaba.
The ex-Valencia ace revealed: “There were days when I really doubted something about myself. But at some point I realised that I am mentally strong.
“Something my wife said helped me a lot: ‘If you were really as bad as people are making you out, you would never have been a World Champion and Arsenal player, something must have brought you here’. Since then I can handle it better.”