EUROPA LEAGUE: Shkodran Mustafi Q&A as Arsenal defender talks facing Chelsea in the final and dealing with criticism
PUBLISHED: 16:07 27 May 2019 | UPDATED: 21:56 28 May 2019
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Arsenal’s Shkodran Mustafi spoke at length during a Q&A at the club’s London Colney training base before Wednesday’s Europa League final against Chelsea. Read on for the defender’s views on the Baku showpiece, dealing with criticism and the Champions League.
It's vital to win a trophy, but is getting into the Champions League more important?
"It's difficult to put it on the scale which is more important, but I think for a player of course winning a trophy is very important because that is what you count at the end of your career.
"You are not counting how many balls you've kicked, you are counting how many trophies you've won so obviously that is huge.
"The Champions League of course is important because it was our goal for the season in the Premier League, but then as well in the Europa League because you have two possibilities to enter in the Champions League. Obviously it's going to be a massive game for us to reach our goal."
Now you're so close to the Champions League is it difficult to think about another season in the Europa League?
"Now it is not difficult to think at all because all we are thinking is to win the Europa League first and then see what the next seasons brings, if we are going to play Champions League or not.
"First thing is playing in the final. In our team, not a lot of players have played club level in finals like this, so for us it's huge.
"We are going to go there and try and win this game and then after of course it would be nice to playing in the Champions League. First of all, we are happy to be in the final and we are going to give everything to win it."
Does that experience give Chelsea an advantage?
"It depends how you see it. For me it is more positive having no experience because you go there, you are looking forward to it, you give everything and you are looking forward to winning it. So for us it is more positive than negative.
What sort of game are you expecting in the all English final?
"It is a different competition. When you play in the Europa League against Chelsea it is going to be a final, it is not a Premier League game so it is going to be different than the games we play against each other in the Premier League.
"It is going to be a close match because teams want to win and have quality and it's a massive game, so I think it's going to be a game where one mistake punishes you. That's why we have to be very careful."
The defence has been criticised again this season, does that get to you guys?
"For me personally it's not getting to me. Our job as defenders is of course, to try not to concede goals. If you make 90 per cent of your job and the 10 per cent your opponent scores a goal, people forget about the 90 per cent.
"At the end of the season if you make 70 points it's for a reason, so I don't think if the back is not doing its job you don't make 90 per cent, because if you go into the game without the defence and only with attacking players I'm not sure you make 70 points.
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"If a striker misses a goal, a penalty or whatever you get a new opportunity five minutes or 10 minutes later.
"For us as a defender, if you make one mistake and they score, you don't have the opportunity even five minutes later and you save something on the line, people won't talk about it. You got to live and learn with it. It's part of our job."
Has it been difficult playing four at the back, three at the back, playing right-back?
"I'm part of the team and I'm always there when the team needs me. The coach knows that. I've played a few games where I was a little bit struggling with my hamstring, but I still every time the coach needed me I was there and he knows that even in the future I am going to be there.
"Even if I'm playing right-back, left-back, centre-mid, striker, if he needs me I'm going to be there, if the team needs me I'm going to be there.
"That's not only with me but with every player because we had a few playing in different positions, so I think it's something very important that shows this team is fighting for each other and not only about me, it's about where does the team need you and what you can give."
You scored more goals than Chelsea but finished below them in the league. Can you understand the criticism?
"If you look at it like this, you have to analyse every game you play. We are a team who want in a lot of games to press high and obviously that gives teams the opportunity to counter-attack. We scored a lot of goals, but then obviously we gave teams as well space to go and break on us.
"If you try and go through all the details you have to go through all the games and see what was wrong. At the end of the day, even when we tried to play out from the back, a lot of people were asking why we are doing this, why are we not just kicking the ball up front, but this is our game.
"The coach prefers that we make mistakes but still play our game instead of just playing something and we cannot identify with the game we want to play.
"In the end of the day, you want to finish a game knowing we've done this, this and this and that's why we won, not how did we win that game because we were bad but we won, because that's not going to be consistent.
"When you count all the games at the end of the season, you are not going to get away with just playing and hoping you are going to win if you don't have an identity. That was our identity, we want to play, we wanted to press up high and we wanted to score goals.
"Obviously we wanted to not let other teams score goals, but as well it is a football game and other teams want to score as well.
"At the end of the day, we didn't reach what we wanted to reach and that is one disappointing fact, but we still have the opportunity in the Europa League to still reach the goal we wanted and obviously with a trophy as well.
Do you have more match winners than Chelsea? Is that how you'll win the game?
"No. I think it is more about how we start the game and which team is going to be more organised because we know each other very well.
"They know our weaknesses and we know their weaknesses so it's going to be about who makes less mistakes. It's going to be a tight game, but I believe in my team.
"I believe in every single player we have in our squad and I think we are good enough to beat them. We showed that in our last Premier League game against them, but as I say, it is a different competition and we cannot rely on that result."
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