Unai Emery admits he has spoken to Shkodran Mustafi about potentially leaving Arsenal this summer.
Mustafi, a World Cup-winner with Germany, remains Arsenal’s most expensive defender after being signed for £35m from Valencia in 2016, but has come under criticism from supporters since his arrival.
Emery, the Arsenal head coach, has previously leapt to the defence of the centre-back, but now appears to be open to letting Mustafi leave, with European clubs still able to complete signings until August 31.
“I spoke with him when we finished last season,” Emery said of Mustafi.
“I spoke with him when we started pre-season and I spoke with him also two weeks ago saying maybe there was the possibility he can leave.”
But I don’t have doubts if he needs to play because he is a good player.
“Maybe we decided to be more competitive in each position, at centre-back with David Luiz, with another player in the middle with (Dani) Ceballos, with Kieran Tierney, with (Nicolas) Pepe.
“I think being more competitive we can respond better in the season. Some players maybe they can play less with that situation and can leave.
“But it’s one decision taken with the player, with the club, with the team. At the moment he is here and really if we need, he plays with us. I have confidence he will do well.
“Some supporters can believe or like one player more than another player, that’s normal.
“But inside I want to be strong and to create a big squad with a big, competitive, winning mentality and above us, with confidence in each other.”
Emery was keen to add a centre-back after losing captain Laurent Koscielny to French club Bordeaux – despite the Arsenal head coach’s best attempts at keeping him.
He got his wish on Deadline Day, signing David Luiz from Chelsea in an £8m deal.
“Last year he (Luiz) won the Europa League and he played every match in the Premier League,” he said.
“It is very difficult to find something negative from him. There is a lot more positive things to help us.”
Emery worked alongside Luiz for a spell while in charge at Paris Saint-Germain but played down any suggestion that the Brazil international could be one of his five allotted captains at the Emirates Stadium.
“It’s difficult,” he said when asked if Luiz would be considered.
“I think we have the possibility inside with players with more circumstances to achieve my decision for a captain.
“But he has experience to use not with the armband but he can still help the young players with his experience. Not like one of the five captains, but doing that.”