Arsenal boss Unai Emery has drastically changed his opinion on Shkodran Mustafi after the defender failed to secure a move in the transfer window.
The 27-year-old centre-back has not featured in the squad so far this season and the German looked all set to leave The Emirates last month after Emery publicly admitted he could leave.
“We have now some players, they know their situation,” Emery said last month. “For example, Elneny and Mustafi know their position in the squad and really I want the players to be happy here, I want the players to be protagonists here.
“Last year with Mustafi and Mo, when they didn’t play they weren’t happy and I spoke with them a lot of times last year and this pre-season and I think it is positive for them to leave and sign for another team where they can be protagonists and be happy and continue their careers.
“But they know the situation and really, really I am wishing the best for them and I think now the best for them is to be protagonists in another team and sign and to get another challenge for them with another team.
Mustafi was linked with Roma, but Sky Sport Italia said that interest faded after Arsenal set their asking price at around £25m.
Turkish Super Lig club Fenerbahce were also believed to have short-listed Mustafi, but after signing Adil Rami on a free transfer they dropped their interest – leaving Mustafi stranded.
Emery though says the player will now be integrated back into his first-team squad, somewhat of a U-turn after saying it was best that Mustafi “was a protagonist in another team” only last month.
Emery said: “Some players left and we didn’t decide that option at the beginning. When they left it was because we decided we can continue in our way with different options. Mustafi decided to be here and when he decided to be here he’s like another player,” Emery said.
“I respect his decision. When he decided I spoke to him and said ‘you’re one more in the squad, I’m going to work with you as other players’.
“Since he decided to stay here he’s working every day with a big motivation and good spirit.”
Arsenal meanwhile are likely to come up against ex-player Danny Welbeck on Sunday, who joined Watford in August on a free transfer after five seasons at the Emirates.
He was one of Javi Gracia’s final signings at Vicarage Road before he was sacked last weekend following a poor run of form and replaced by Quique Sanchez Flores.
Emery said: “Danny’s an amazing person and a very good player. He had that injury and he finished here and now he is at Watford and I wish him the best.”