Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi has hit out at the criticism surrounding him at the club, labelling it as ‘irrational’.
The German joined the club back in 2016, making him the most expensive German defender of all time when they signed him from Valencia.
He endured a solid start to life at the Emirates, with many hoping he was the strong, commanding centre-back the side had long been hoping for.
That has quickly evaporated, though, with several poor performances leading to a wave of criticism from fans and pundits alike.
The criticism hit such levels that, at one point, Mustafi was forced to lock the comments section on his Instagram. And speaking about the attention he’s getting, he admits the whole scenario has gotten out of hand.
“In the first two years after my move to Arsenal in 2016, things went very well for me. I saw myself as a performer,” he told Der Spiegel.
“But shortly after Christmas 2018, there was a hiccup (injury). 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 those mistakes (against Liverpool and Crystal Palace). I can also deal with tough criticism.
“But the criticism has become escalated and irrational. I have become a target. At one point, people even blamed me for a defeat in a game I had not played in.”
Criticism has come from all angles for Mustafi, with more than one Arsenal legend openly questioning his performances.
Emmanuel Petit was one such high-profile critic, labelling the German defender as the ‘King of blunders’ after he gave away a penalty in the North London derby with Tottenham back in March.
That was a critique that hit Mustafi hard, with the 27-year-old questioning why a former professional player would damage another pro’s career with such a tag.
“That annoyed me a lot. It’s the one thing when fans or media criticize you.
“But it’s a different story when an ex-player who knows how hard it is on the field sometimes says so.
“I expect such players to be more sensitive and realise what this sharply worded critique can trigger.
“In the past, that might have been in the paper one day, and then people would have forgotten it. Today it’s on the internet and will haunt me for the rest of my career.
“Former players like Petit should not have to make a name for themselves by making condescending comments about current players.”
Given the level of criticism that Mustafi regularly faces at Arsenal, it was a surprise to many that he didn’t leave the club this summer.
The arrival of David Luiz only helped to push him further down the pecking order, while the likes of Calum Chambers and Rob Holding are also ahead of him in Unai Emery’s plans.
Mustafi confirms there were talks for him to leave, with Arsenal seemingly trying to make it happen despite publicly stating otherwise.
“In the summer there were considerations to change club. But no option would have satisfied all sides,” he added.
“Also Arsenal has made a departure possible, of course, as long as some conditions are met.
“And I knew: the next change is extremely important to make another positive chapter in my career.
“If I change somewhere where it does not really fit, the situation could not improve much. So I stayed. I am open [to moving] in the future – also for the Bundesliga.”