Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has told Football London that he has been ‘very close’ to picking Shkodran Mustafi to start a number of times this season.
Mustafi has struggled for game time at Arsenal this term, and he is yet to make a start at all in the Premier League.
The German is now being linked with an exit, with Arsenal seemingly having a number of players ahead of him in the pecking order.
But Arteta insists that Mustafi is actually still in his first-team plans and he could yet feature against Crystal Palace this evening.
“Well Musti came back from a really difficult injury when he got injured at the end of last season,” he said.
“After that period he was doing really well. I think his performances were increasing and getting better and better. And when he came back that’s when we had seven or eight central defenders.
“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, yeah, when do you make the next step to be the starter? And the reality is that we have to change that 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.”
Despite Arteta’s words, it seems highly unlikely that Mustafi will play for Arsenal tonight.
The German may be ‘in contention’ to start, but he surely will be overlooked again.
Arsenal have looked solid at the back of late, and Pablo Mari and Rob Holding’s partnership in defence has caught the eye.
Mari and Holding are likely to be the pair that Arteta sticks with later, with Gabriel also coming back and taking his place on the bench, in case of emergency.
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