MIKEL ARTETA has already worked a minor miracle to transform Arsenal’s fortunes in the space of two months.
But even the Spaniard probably never imagined that he would be able to get football’s angriest fans cheering for Shkodran Mustafi.
The German defender was in danger of being hounded out of the Emirates following a series of high-profile and costly mistakes.
He was told he could leave by ex-boss Unai Emery, who did not pick him for a single Premier League game all season — and was axed after one game by interim manager Freddie Ljungberg.
Yet he was given a fresh start by Arteta and is starting to emerge as an unlikely defensive rock after starting Arsenal’s last six games.
No one is more surprised by his rehabilitation than Mustafi, 27, and he insists it is all down to the manager’s faith.
Ahead of tomorrow’s home clash with Everton, he said: “Even though I’ve played for many years I’m learning a lot from Mikel.
“He speaks about stuff I’ve never heard before — simple things, but stuff that you have to remember.
“Football is so quick and so complicated these days. There is so much stuff you have to think about that sometimes you start to forget the easy things.
“Mikel is putting the basics back into the team. We still need to work on it a lot because we still complicate our lives too much.
“I think he has had a very good impact on the team.”
Mustafi, a £34.85million buy from Valencia in 2016, is still getting used to words of praise after years of abuse from Arsenal fans.
He added: “It’s been a difficult season for me, especially during the first months when I wasn’t in the team or even in the squad.
“But I always try to look for the positives and having my wife and kids helped me a lot because life is not only about football.
“I have always said that if you think things are over for you, then you should retire.
“We get well paid in this job so we have to stay professional.
“The reason every team has more than 20 players is there are so many games to play that everyone will get an opportunity.
“So as long as you remain professional, even when you are not in the team, then nobody can fault you for anything.
“Of course, it’s important to have a good relationship with the fans and it makes life easier when they appreciate your performances and give you their backing.
“You get a lot of attention in this profession and it’s not always positive.
“But I’m happy with the way things are going and it’s great the team’s getting rewarded for our hard work.”
Mustafi will take on former club Everton tomorrow as Arsenal eye a fourth successive clean sheet for the first time in FIVE YEARS.
Defending is down to the whole team and now we do that a lot better
Thursday’s battling 1-0 Europa League win at Olympiakos means the Gunners are unbeaten in their last nine games under Arteta.
The Spaniard told his stars to roll their sleeves up and learn to enjoy the art of defending.
That is a message which has gone down particularly well with centre-half Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
And the Greek, 31, explained: “When all the players defend, the defence is better.
“It’s not down to four or five of us — it’s down to the whole team and now we do that a lot better.
“We’re not allowing opponents to have a lot of shots like we were earlier in the season and much of this is down to the work of the manager.
“From his first day he spoke to us about what we had to do better.
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“There is still a lot of room for improvement but every week we look to take another step forward.
“We have all had our difficult moments this season. Mustafi has made mistakes — but so have I and David Luiz.
“Mustafi is a good player but needed help through a difficult time.”
This post written by ian tuckey originally appeared on Football news - transfers, fixtures, scores, pictures | The Sun. Read the full post here.