Mikel Arteta confirm German born defender will be at the Emirates

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Mikel Arteta is convinced he can be the one to save Shkodran Mustafi’s Arsenal career even as he prepares to add a new centre-back to his squad.

Arsenal were this weekend on the brink of signing Flamengo centre-back Pablo Mari on a loan deal that will include the option for a permanent transfer.

Arteta has made strengthening his centre-back options a top priority since Calum Chambers suffered a season-ending knee injury and his need for greater consistency at the back only became more apparent on Tuesday when the latest in a string of errors from Mustafi severely hindered Arsenal’s prospects in a 2-2 draw with Chelsea.

A clumsy backpass from the World Cup winner released Tammy Abraham and left David Luiz in the uncomfortable position of either fouling his opponent or allowing him to score, the Brazilian taking the latter option.

The error on Tuesday night was far from the first occasion Mustafi, a £35million signing from Valencia in the summer of 2016, has made the sort of mistake that has made it harder for his side to earn a positive result. Still Arteta believes he can address the German’s flaws.

Asked whether he could change Mustafi’s career at Arsenal, Arteta was emphatic. “It’s my job to do that. Absolutely.”

Arteta believes there is more to the defender’s errors than just confidence or a lack thereof. What is needed instead is a eureka moment but there were signs in Mustafi’s display against Chelsea to suggest the World Cup winner is at least worth persevering with.

Shellshocked as he might have been after his latest disastrous error Mustafi grew in effectiveness during the second half, leading his side in aerial challenges won, clearances and blocking three shots, as many as the rest of the Arsenal side combined.

“I’ve worked with players like this, I’ve had team-mates like this and there is always a moment where there is a click,” Arteta said of Mustafi.

“I can accept a mistake, no problem, what I’m not going to accept is someone who makes a mistake and after he stops playing, he doesn’t want the ball, he doesn’t want to make decisions. That player is not acceptable for our team.

“But Musti after that he tried to play every single time, he went for every single challenge, he put his body on the line.

“He was down afterwards, yes, but he reacted and if he does that, he will overcome the situation. I ask him to play the way we want to play, he made a mistake, on another day it will be someone else.

“Obviously we want to minimise that as quickly as possible and find the reason why that happens, but I like his reaction after that.”

During the summer Unai Emery left Mustafi in no doubt that the time had come for him to move on yet the German’s stance on leaving Arsenal has long been clear even as the club have spent several years trying to shift his £90,000-a-week contract off their books. If a suitable alternative was presented to him he would depart but he refused to be pushed out.

Arsenal would still welcome any offers for Mustafi this month and the imminent arrival of Mari will send the 28-year-old further down the pecking order. However Arteta insists there is a still place for the centre-back in his squad.

“While he is my player and he is training with me the way he does every day, of course. The plans maybe in the summer were different with him, I came here, he is here and his attitude is always right.

“He wants to help. He made a mistake, it’s OK. But I like more the reaction.

“I don’t believe that at 28 you cannot improve certain aspects of the game. I really believe that you can.”

Mari’s arrival will leave Arteta with five senior centre-backs available to him plus the injured Calum Chambers on his books. Of that quintet it has been notable that Rob Holding, who returned from an ACL rupture in October, appears to be at the bottom of the pecking order, left on the bench in favour of Mustafi and Luiz on Tuesday night.

“He is a very interesting player, very focused, very determined and very willing to learn,” Arteta said of Holding. “Obviously the fact he has been out for such a long time, he is lacking competition now and lacking that rhythm.

“We need to try to give him as much as possible to help you. I agree, there were some moments [against Chelsea] that he looked really really good. He is a player that is going to be very valuable for us.”

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