Shkodran Mustafi is likely to be out of action until the New Year after being substituted with an injury against Stoke on Saturday.
This means that the defender will definitely miss Arsenal’s crunch clash against Manchester City on December 18. The Germany international, who has been a rock at the heart of Arsenal’s defence since his £35million arrival from Valencia in the summer, limped off after just 25 minutes. Arsenal still managed to stage a comeback to take all 3 points pleasing Arsene Wenger, but it was not all good news for the Frenchman after the game.
Wenger has now confirmed that the defender suffered a hamstring injury, and is set to face a minimum of 21 days on the sidelines :
“It’s a bad one. He had nothing in midweek. I would not have played him today (if he had). I had Hector Bellerin on the bench.”
“I could have played Holding or Gabriel. He wanted to play in Basel, because he said ‘no it’s nothing’, and it was completely clear. I checked three times and there was no problem for. I don’t know why it happened, but it looks a ‘good’ hamstring strain.” he said.
“Look, the minimum when you go out like that is 21 days. After that, today is December 10, so you are 21 days, that means he’ll have a nice Christmas!”
Arsenal have three games in that period, facing Everton away on Tuesday, Manchester City away on 18 December, and West Brom at the Emiates on 26 December.
Mustafi has been one of Arsenal’s most consistent performers this season having formed a solid understanding with Laurent Koscielny, and will be a huge miss in central defence. The defender has impressive statistics as well, averaging 1.8 tackles, 3.1 interceptions and 5.1 clearances a game in the Premier League.
The news leaves Wenger sweating on his central defensive options. Per Mertesacker is at least five weeks away from being available following a serious knee injury sustained in pre-season, and Wenger is now one injury away from a severe central defensive crisis.
The Gunners do have Rob Holding, a £2million summer signing from Bolton, in their ranks but the 21-year-old hasn’t played in the Premier League since August, and looked understandably overawed by the occasion when he started in Arsenal’s 4-3 opening-day defeat to Liverpool.
Gabriel – who has been filling in as a right-back for the Gunners’ during Hector Bellerin’s absence – slotted into central defence after Mustafi went off, and is the obvious candidate to start for Arsenal while Mustafi recovers.