New signing Shkodran Mustafi hails Arsenal's battling spirit ahead of Champions League clash with Paris Saint Germain
PUBLISHED: 22:36 12 September 2016 | UPDATED: 12:23 13 September 2016
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Shkodran Mustafi, Arsenal Wenger’s £30 million signing from Valencia has hailed Arsenal’s fighting spirit as he looks forward to the challenge of playing Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday evening.
With the fixture looming large at the intimidating Parc de Princes he also reflected on his teammates’ late 2-1 victory over a battling Southampton side at The Emirates on Saturday – through a late Santi Cazorla penalty and a spectacular overhead kick from his defensive partner Laurent Koscielny.
The 2014 World Cup winner – who appeared as a substitute in his side’s 4-0 group stage win over Portugal, a 2-2 draw with Ghana and the second round 2-1 victory over Algeria in extra time in Porto Alegre – showed his quality during that last-gasp triumph against the Saints.
The 24-year-old Bad Hersfeld-born defender praised the team’s spirit, saying: “It’s important to stay in the game until the last second of the game, until the referee blows the whistle.
“I’m a German, we are known for staying in the game until the end and that’s what gave us the three points.
“We had opportunities before that to score, but that’s football. You create chances but the most important thing is to believe and we believed until the end and that’s what gave us the points.”
PSG go into Tuesday night’s game on the back of two league matches without a win – an unusual state of affairs considering their dominance of Ligue 1 over the last few years.
Arsenal for their part travel with Koscielny declared fit after a facial injury picked up during the scramble for a late winner on Saturday. They are also boosted by the news defender Gabriel has returned to full training after his ankle injury.
Yet with Wenger’s men heading back to the city where they led a star-studded Barcelona side 1-0 with 17 minutes remaining in the 2006 Champions League final – only for substitute Henrik Larsson to inspire a late comeback against the ten-man Gunners – hopes of winning the competition seem slimmer than ever.
But in football, dreams are not entirely impossible to fulfil – despite the club’s Groundhog Day-style exits in the Round of 16 for the last six seasons since they last progressed beyond that stage in 2009/10. Only to be ejected 6-3 on aggregate by Barcelona, including a superlative four-goal show by Lionel Messi in a 4-1 trouncing in the Nou Camp.
However Mustafi – whose 90th minute pass to Olivier Giroud on Saturday saw the forward’s shirt pulled by Jose Fonte leading to Cazorla’s penalty – was bullish ahead of the heavyweight clash in the French capital.
He said: “It’s an important competition, it’s not going to be an easy game in Paris.
“The most important thing is to concentrate on Arsenal. The most important thing in the Champions League is to concentrate on yourself because all the teams in it are big teams with big players so the most important thing is to try and play our game and try to get the three points.
“The main thing is no matter which country you go, you need to think football is a team sport – so you need all the players on the pitch to think football – and if you play with big players alongside you then it makes everything easier.”
The Gunners are set to play in the Parc de Princes for the first time since a memorable 1-1 draw in first leg of the European Cup Winners Cup semi final in 1994 on their way to a never-to-be-forgotten triumph in that year’s competition. A game in which Ian Wright put the North Londoners 1-0 up with a header in a match which saw the song One-Nil-To-The-Arsenal born – after travelling fans started singing it during the half-time break as the PA played Go West by the Pet Shop Boys.
But as the personable but deadly serious Mutafi concluded: “I don’t think too much about the past, and I don’t think too much about the future,
“I think the most important thing is to concentrate on the present and be prepared for the game.
“That’s all we have to do.”
If Arsenal can achieve a similar result to that memorable game 22 years ago in this atmospheric ground – a game which the French sports newspaper L’Equipe described beforehand as a ‘night for men’ – then Mustafi’s insistence his team have a battling spirit will not be disabused just yet.