Shkodran Mustafi Arsenal 2018-19Getty Images

No more Mustafi! Arsenal gambling their season with error-prone defender

It had been 251 days since Arsenal had last tasted defeat in the Premier League at the Emirates.

Manchester City were the victors, way back on the opening weekend of the season. Since then 16 had tried and failed to beat Unai Emery’s side in north London.

Wolves had gone close in November, but other than that it had been relatively smooth sailing - until today.

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Arsenal went into their Easter Sunday clash with Crystal Palace on the back of 10 straight league wins at the Emirates, something they last achieved 20 years ago in 1999.

Unsurprisingly, no-one really gave Palace a chance of ending that run, but they did just that - thanks largely to the calamitous Shkodran Mustafi.

The German centre-back was not the only one at fault during what was a lacklustre display from the hosts, with Emery having to shoulder some of the blame for his team selection - but the error Mustafi made which allowed Wilfried Zaha to restore Palace's lead in the second half was simply unforgivable.

With the race for the top four so tight, any dropped points at this stage of the season are costly. But when they come at home they are even more painful.

Arsenal were poor in the first half and Palace deservedly led at the break thanks to a goal from Christian Benteke.

But when Mesut Ozil equalised within two minutes of the restart, expertly finishing off Alexandre Lacazette’s pass, it looked like the hosts would go on and get the win they needed to move above Spurs into third.

arsenal crystal palace 2019Getty Images

But then, just after the hour mark, Mustafi struck.

Quite what was going through his head when he decided to leave Benteke’s flick-on for Bernd Leno only he will know, but his monumental lapse of concentration let Zaha in and the Palace winger made no mistake.

It was an incredible error from a player who Arsenal must look to move on and replace in the summer.

If Emery is going to build a team that is capable of competing with the best once again, then he has to get a better option at centre-back.

The momentum that Arsenal had built up at the start of the second half totally evaporated following Mustafi’s mistake.

For about 10 minutes they were all over the place and the visitors took full advantage, adding a third through James McArthur’s header to all but seal the win.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did give Arsenal some hope when he pulled one back with a fine finish 10 minutes from time, but by then the damage had been done.

Arsenal remain in the top four despite this defeat, but with three of their remaining four games away from home - they now have it all to do to guarantee themselves Champions League football next season.

Sokratis will be back at Wolves on Wednesday night, surely in place of the hapless Mustafi, and his return from suspension can’t come soon enough.