Arsène Wenger says Shkodran Mustafi has returned from injury but won’t start against West Ham United in the Carabao Cup.
Mustafi picked up an injury against Manchester United at the start of the month, after a nightmare opening 15 minutes.
But Wenger says he’s now set to make his return to the side, saying to Arsenal.com yesterday: “Shkodran is back again. I will not use him on Tuesday but he’s available again.”
In the matches Mustafi has missed, Arsenal weren’t particularly solid at the back but only conceded one goal in three games.
Against Southampton, the opening 15 minutes were as bad as they were in the Manchester United clash, and the Gunners were lucky they were only 1-0 down at the time.
Then both West Ham and Newcastle came close to making late pressure count against Arsenal, but Wenger’s side came away with a couple of cleans sheets.
The big question when Mustafi returns, presumably on Friday against Liverpool, is whether the team will revert to a back-three.
In those matches against Newcastle and West Ham, the Gunners played Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny and Hector Bellerín in a back-four, but whether that continues when all three first-choice centre-backs return remains to be seen.
If the team do retain the back-four, Mustafi might struggle to be selected, in my opinion. Wenger revealed this week that he has a preference for playing both a left-footed centre-back and a right-footed centre-back in his teams.
I believe the German international is unlikely to displace Koscielny as the right-footer on this season’s form. But we’ll have to wait and see.