Mikel Arteta has not ruled out letting Shkodran Mustafi leave this month despite the injury problems which have plagued the Arsenal defence in recent weeks.
The German centre-back has not featured for the Gunners since Arteta’s first home game in charge, when he was heavily blamed for his part in Chelsea’s late winner as they came from behind to snatch a 2-1 victory at Emirates Stadium last month.
Galatasaray have been linked with a move for the 27-year-old, with some reports suggesting Mustafi’s agent has travelled to Turkey to try and finalise a transfer.
And whilst admitting a potential exit for Mustafi this month would be far from ideal given Arsenal’s injury problems at the back, Arteta has not shut the door on the defender being allowed to leave.
"Can we afford [it]? The ideal scenario is no," said Arsenal’s head coach. "If it happens, we will have to invent something."
Arteta has seen his options at the back decimated in recent weeks, losing Calum Chambers to a long-term knee injury which has ruled him out for the season and also Sead Kolasinac to a thigh strain picked up in training.
With Kieran Tierney sidelined for another two months as he recovers from a dislocated shoulder and Hector Bellerin still struggling with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of action since the 2-1 defeat by Brighton in December, Arsenal’s boss has little to work with at the back.
Central midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles continues to deputise at right-back while on Saturday, when Sheffield United visit Emirates Stadium, 18-year-old winger Bukayo Saka looks set to fill in at left-back in the absence of Kolasinac and Tierney.
“We have a lot of issues at the back, the fact that Calum got the big injury is modifying our plans,” admitted Arteta, who has been linked with a move for Paris Saint-Gemain left-back Layvin Kurzawa by French outlet RMC Sport.
“We are 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.
“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.”
Turning his attentions back to Mustafi, Arteta has challenged the out-of-favour defender to prove to him that he can still make an impact at Arsenal, should he fail to get a move before the end of the transfer window.
The Spaniard was briefly a team-mate of the German at Everton and says if he stays, he will get another opportunity to show he is good enough to be part of his plans going forward.
“I have known him since my time when I was at Everton,” said Arteta. “I know what he can do.
“I know this history at this football club, but it is up to him. 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.”