Former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour believes that Shkodran Mustafi has made a huge difference for the Gunners so far this season as they prepare for a tough test this weekend.
The Gunners travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United on Saturday, and they do so with a string of key players missing or carrying knocks.
Hector Bellerin, Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez are all set to, or are at risk of, missing the showdown, but Parlour has been impressed with his former club’s steel and solidity so far this season, and believes summer signings Mustafi and Granit Xhaka have had a major impact.
The German international in particular has caught Parlour’s eye, as he believes that he plays a pivotal role in strengthening the spine of the team, but also helps them play their preferred style.
“I look at Arsenal now and think they’re a lot stronger,” he told Sky Sports.
“The key signings for me were Mustafi and Xhaka. Those two down the spine have been very strong, especially Mustafi who’s come in next to [Laurent] Koscielny at the back.
“No disrespect to Per Mertesacker, who’s getting that little bit older, but sometimes Arsenal have to sit off with him in the team. With Mustafi, you can push up that little bit higher and condense the space in midfield.”
However, this is another major test that Arsenal have to pass in order to prove their title credentials, as they look to stretch their unbeaten run to 17 games in all competitions after bouncing back from their opening weekend defeat to Liverpool.
Doubts still remain over whether they can maintain their impressive form, while their rivals at the top in Liverpool and Chelsea are in ominous form.
Mustafi and Koscielny will certainly have to provide a solid foundation on which the visitors can take all three points this weekend, as Arsene Wenger hopes that his side can step up and deliver in a game that many will predict Arsenal slipping up in.