Thursday 16 January 2020 12:46, UK
Shkodran Mustafi has been offered an Arsenal lifeline as head coach Mikel Arteta admits he currently has a dearth of defensive options.
Germany international Mustafi appeared certain to leave the Emirates either last summer or during the January transfer window having been told by former boss Unai Emery he was surplus to requirements.
However, having started just one Premier League game this term, Mustafi could be handed further opportunities by Arteta due to a lengthening injury list.
With Calum Chambers sidelined for the remainder of the season and Konstantinos Mavropanos allowed to leave on loan to Nurnberg, Mustafi is one of four central defenders available to the Gunners - along with Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz and Rob Holding.
Meanwhile, injuries to full-backs Hector Bellerin, Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac has left Arsenal even shorter at the back.
"Can we afford [ to lose a centre-back]?" Arteta said The ideal scenario is no.
"If it happens, we will have to invent something. We are already playing with full-backs that are not full-backs.
"They are wingers or central midfielders and could we afford to lose full-backs? No, but we don't have any full-backs."
Mustafi has struggled for form since moving to Arsenal from Valencia in 2016 and often comes in for criticism from the club's supporters.
But Arteta, who has previous experience of working alongside the 27-year-old following Mustafi's short stint at Everton, is ready to offer him a clean slate.
"I know his history at this football club, but it is up to him," Arteta added. "I told everybody from day one: 'It is up to you guys. You show me how much you want it, you show me you are committed here, you are going to have a chance and it is going to come this week, next week or the following one'.
"They are all going to have the chance to play. After it is up to them to show it."
With his depleted numbers in defence, Arteta may yet dip into the January transfer market.
He ruled out a move for Manchester City's John Stones earlier in the week but the club has since been linked with Paris Saint-Germain full-back Layvin Kurzawa.
"We have a lot of issues at the back, the fact that Calum got the big injury is modifying our plans," Arteta said before speculation over a move for Kurzawa emerged.
"It is what we have, the situation, it can happen between December and January, it is very common. We have to live with it, this is what we have.
"We have to put 11 players out on the pitch on Saturday and I am sure we will.
They will try their best, and I will try to select the ones who in my opinion are the best fit for that game."
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