Shkodran Mustafi believes that he can still carve out a long-term future for himself at Arsenal beyond the end of the season after rebuilding his relationship with the club’s fanbase amid a somewhat-unexpected recent resurgence.
Having been told by previous boss Unai Emery that he was free to leave the club last summer and then being left out on a regular basis, Mustafi has earned a chance of reviving his Gunners career under Mikel Arteta.
The Germany international has endured a strained affiliation with Arsenal supporters since his big-money move from Valencia in 2016 and has often been derided for his defensive capability.
But, alongside David Luiz at the heart of the back four, Mustafi has played his part in three consecutive clean sheets – the first time Arsenal have enjoyed such a run in 10 months.
He again stood strong in Thursday’s 1-0 Europa League round of 32 win in Olympiakos as Alexandre Lacazette’s goal put Arteta’s side in the driving seat to advance to the next stage.
Speaking after the narrow victory in Piraeus, Mustafi – who has now started the last six Arsenal games across all competitions – said he could now remain at the Emirates Stadium in the long-term.
Asked if he saw his future at Arsenal, he replied: “Why not? I have always taken things day to day.
“We had a game on Thursday, we have the next important game at the weekend and as long as I am playing for a club – it doesn’t matter which one – I play now for Arsenal and played before for previous ones.
“I always gave everything until the last minute and when I decide or when the club and I decide it is going to continue I am happy to continue, if not then we have to go forward.”
Often singled out as a scapegoat during recent Arsenal trials and tribulations, Mustafi’s recent form has seen him praised by supporters and the 27-year-old admits building bridges with fans has made his return to the team easier.
“It is always important to have a good relationship with the fans but for me the main thing was to be professional,” he added.
“To always be there for my team-mates and for the club and then obviously when you play well they appreciate your performances but it makes it easier when you have the fans behind you, back supporting you so I am happy for that.”
Mustafi claims settled family life is key to revival
Having a settled life away from the spotlight of the football pitch is something else Mustafi credits with helping him to kick-start his stuttering career in England.
“You know I think in the beginning of the season, not being selected, not making the squad, it has been difficult,” he said.
“But I am a person who tries to see more the positive things than the negatives. I think that helped me a lot.
“Having my family around me – my kids, my wife – because life is not only football. That’s something I kept remembering to myself.
“Being in training every day, playing a lot of games, you get a lot of attention but still at the end of the day I am a father of two kids and I try to focus on this as well. I am happy how it is running now.
“I am happy for the team as well because it is doing great and we are getting rewarded for it. That’s the most important thing.”