Arsene Wenger has backed both Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez to improve in the coming weeks after making their debuts in Arsenal’s late 2-1 win over Southampton on Saturday, identifying the lack of gametime as the key issue for the former La Liga duo.
Mustafi played the full 90 minutes in central defence alongside Laurent Koscielny, while Perez led the line for 62 minutes and was replaced by Olivier Giroud, who went on to win the decisive penalty.
The German defender looked assured at the back but struggled with a few wayward passes in the opening half, while Perez was largely anonymous apart from a few tidy passes and failed to produce a shot on target.
“I feel both are short, they lack competition,” Wenger said after the game. “And their second half was much better than their first half. They were a bit surprised by the pace and the commitment of the Premier League, and they will adapt to that. Also, they were a bit on their nerves I think in the first half. In the second half it was much better.”
Due to Arsenal’s reluctance or inability to seal the transfers earlier, both players were bought at the tail end of the transfer window and as a result have had restricted preparations for the upcoming campaign.
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“Perez has played one game, the first game of La Liga. Then they didn’t play him anymore because they knew he could go,” the Frenchman said. “And Mustafi has only played one half since the start of the season with Valencia. So they are missing games.”
Both players will take time to settle, and with games coming thick and fast there will be plenty of opportunities to get minutes under their belt over the coming weeks.
Perez’s directness does look exciting, so once he spends more time with his attacking partners he will develop more of an understanding on the pitch. Playing alongside midfielders such as Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla must make his mouth water.
For Mustafi, it appeared nerves got the better of him but his tackling looked spot on and he looks a very capable partner to Koscielny. It always takes time for players to embed themselves into the team, let alone the fast-paced Premier League. They just need a little more time, and thankfully it didn’t hinder Arsenal’s ability to grab all three points over Southampton.