Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has admitted he may dip into the transfer market to strengthen his squad at centre-back as he confirmed Shkodran Mustafi that will miss this weekend’s FA Cup final vs Chelsea and also the start of next season.
Centre-back Mustafi has missed the Gunners’ last two matches after going off injured in the FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester City, including Sunday’s 3-2 win over Watford on the final day of the Premier League season.
The 28-year-old has produced some of his finest performances in an Arsenal shirt under Arteta but will miss another final, having been absent for the 2017 FA Cup showpiece, also against Chelsea, due to concussion.
Mustafi has been a near everpresent under the Spanish coach but is now set to miss the start of the new season too, with the next Premier League campaign scheduled to begin on September 12.
And with Arsenal’s defence having suffered incessant injuries this term, Arteta has suggested that he will look to strengthen at the back, despite having already added Pablo Mari to his ranks, making his countryman’s loan switch from Flamengo permanent last month.
Arteta said of Mustafi’s problem: “It looks a really nasty injury again. We have lost Calum Chambers the week after I arrived here, we lost Pablo as well for three months.
“Now we’ve lost Musti so at the back we’re really stretched and short. Musti has been playing really consistently and at a really good level with me recently. He will miss the start of next season.
“He pulled the tendon off the bone in his hamstring and that’s normally a lot of weeks.
“That’s three central defenders who are not available and we haven’t had them available for a long time during this season. We will have to address that.”
The Spanish coach also confirmed that goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez will start at Wembley having produced another impressive performance against Watford.
The Argentine shot-stopper has been a sublime stand-in for the injured Bernd Leno, who is hoping to recover from a knee problem to be fit for the new season.
“Emi has earned his place with another brilliant performance again today,” he said.
“When the team needed him he made some fantastic saves. Bernd is still recovering from his injuries so Emi’s the one now.
“In football next week is too much. Let’s hope that he’s available for the game and if that’s the case he will start the final.”
Arsenal’s win over Watford, which relegated the Hornets to the Championship, meant that the north London club finished ninth in the Premier League.
And Arteta added: “It was a crazy game right from the start. The moment we went 1-0 or 2-0 up you could sense their front players were a bit cheating.
“And obviously if you didn’t finish the actions every time the counter was open.
“We allowed them too many balls in the box, this is where they’re really dangerous.
“They had some really good quality moments with the ball in the final third but we weren’t at the races without the ball like we’ve been doing in the last few games.
“I mean cheating because they were staying up front – not cheating but gambling a little bit.
“Obviously it’s hard to control them when you lose the ball and don’t finish the actions.
“It was a little bit of a basketball game where it was not much control.
“I feel very sorry for them [Watford]. They were unlucky today. They’re neighbours with us, around the training ground, they’re very local. It must be really hard.
“They tried to the last minute. You could see how much they wanted it. Sorry.
“Hopefully they’ll be back next season in the Premier League because I know how touched the players and the club should be with that result.”
And looking ahead to the clash with Chelsea, who sealed Champions League football with a 2-0 win over Wolves at the weekend, the Gunners boss continued: “It will be a completely different game.
“First of all from the mental side it will be equal how much they want it and how much we want it.
“I don’t think that was the case today because of the necessity they had, the way they had to go to the game was different to ours.
“Normally you can see that when you don’t have the ball. Hopefully it will be different.