German international Shkodran Mustafi has insisted that he is totally focused on helping Arsenal launch their 19th successive UEFA Champions League campaign with a win over reigning French champions Paris Saint-Germain.
Arsenal travel to France’s capital for what will be crucial tie, having lost their opening game in both of the last two seasons in Europe’s premier club competition.
Keen to keep composure
Speaking to the Evening Standard before the Gunners’ test tomorrow evening at Parc des Princes, Mustafi was eager to forget these past faults: “I don’t think too much about the past and I don’t think too much about the future,” the 24-year-old claimed. “The most important thing is to concentrate on the present and be prepared for the game.”
Despite this bullish approach, the former Valencia defender remained grounded, admitting that it will be far from easy for the North London outfit, “It’s not going to be easy in Paris because all the teams in the Champions League are big teams, with big players.”
Mustafi made his debut for Arsenal in the narrowest of wins over Southampton, impressing alongside Laurent Koscielny, who is a troublesome doubt after picking up a facial injury on Saturday before Santi Cazorla’s stoppage time penalty - in which Mustafi played a big part in, supplying the pass for Olivier Giroud, who was then controversially felled by Jose Fonte.
Relaxed Mustafi looking forward to the challenge
Reflecting upon this in a jovial mood, Mustafi quipped, “I’m a German, we are known for staying in the game until the end and that’s what gave us the three points!”
He also paid testament to the mindset of the side last weekend, and was impressed with the attitude shown; one that he noted had been missing over the past few years: “You create chances but the most important thing is to believe and we believed until the end. That's what gave us the points.”
The game, should he feature, will mark the German’s first start in continental competition - having made a sole substitute appearance for Everton in the UEFA Europa League seven years ago, before leaving England with little experience under his belt.
With the dominative, nouveau riche Parisian club enduring a relatively tough run of form for their standards - without a win in two games - a positive result may well be within Arsenal’s reach. On the other end of the spectrum, Arsenal appear to be gathering pace with back-to-back wins after a sluggish start.
But, bitter rivals Chelsea have succumbed to PSG in each of the last two seasons. With new manager Unai Emery also having got the better of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in last season’s Europa League Final with Sevilla; it will still be far from easy.
Emery in search of more European glory
Emery - who succeeded former Manchester United defender Laurent Blanc in the summer - has a proud record in Europe, with successive Europa League wins. The 44-year-old has also been shrewd in the transfer market, bringing highly rated Polish holding midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak with him, as well as securing the services of a rejuvenated Hatem Ben-Arfa and the frustrated Jese Rodriguez.
In a bid to satisfy the demands of their affluent owners - who are growing ever more desperate for a Champions League title after falling at either the Quarter-Final or Semi-Final stage in each of the last four seasons, Emery looks to be building a squad, rather than a group of superstars.
But, the loss of the enigmatic and talismanic Zlatan Ibrahimovic has hurt PSG tenfold, with Edinson Cavani struggling for goals, form and confidence after three years in the Swede’s considerable shadow.
Arsenal's last visit to Les Parisiens saw them triumph in a UEFA European Cup Winners’ Cup Semi-Final, en route to beating Parma in the Final in 1994.
It remains their most recent European trophy, a victory tomorrow could go a long way to changing that.