Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has revealed that German centre-back Shkodran Mustafi will not be leaving the club this month as he is needed to cover for the first team.
Mustafi has been limited to just three Premier League appearances this season – a total of 43 minutes – so it was widely expected that the 28-year-old would be shipped out in some capacity, with Barcelona tipped to push for Mustafi’s signature on loan.
However, Arsenal have already loaned out William Saliba to Nice and are set to allow Sokratis Papastathopoulos to leave the club in the coming weeks as well, so Arteta has no plans to shrink his centre-back group any further.
“His future right now is here,” Arteta said (via Sky Sports News). “I’m trying to help. We have Papa that probably is going to leave the club in this window, William that has already gone on loan, so we don’t have that many right now.
“Gabriel’s been out now for a period, David [Luiz] has been injured, so the situation is completely different to before.”
Arteta was then asked to defend the need to keep five centre-backs on the books (six if you include the injured Calum Chambers). Rob Holding and Pablo Mari are currently shining for the Gunners, but Arteta was adamant that Mustafi may still be handed some opportunities before the season comes to a close.
“Musti came back from a really difficult injury when he got injured at the end of last season,” he added. “Up to that period I think he was doing really well, I think his performances were increasing and getting better and better.
“When he came back it was a moment when we had seven or eight centre-backs so he had to get his performance level up. I think physically he still needed some time, then he started to play some games in Europe which I think he did well as well.
“And now it’s about when do you make the next step to be a starter, and the reality is that we have to change for different reasons, use different personnel.
“He’s been very close in a few games but now we’ve found as well a partnership that is giving us clean sheets and sometimes when you do that it’s difficult to change, but he’s still in contention.”