Wenger discusses Arsenal defence amid new Mustafi link

Oli Fisher
Shkodran Mustafi: Joins Arsenal from Valencia

Arsene Wenger has admitted he faces a selection dilemma ahead of Arsenal’s season-opening game against Liverpool on August 14.

Arsenal currently have three central defenders not taking part in preparations; with Per Mertesacker out until 2017, Laurent Koscielny having not yet returned following the European Championships, and Gabriel suffering from tonsilitis.

One of the three is expected to be available against the Reds at the Emirates, but Wenger has a choice to make over who their partner will be.

Calum Chambers, summer signing Rob Holding and midfielder Krystian Bielik have all been used in that position in pre-season, while the club have been linked with other defenders.

Holding in particular has shone in pre-season, and Wenger is delighted with his £2m purchase.

“I am impressed by his performances and by his capacity to adapt very quickly to a higher level,” he said. “He shows intelligence, composure, character and it’s impressive. You do not see that often.

“At the moment we have Per Mertesacker out and we have Laurent Koscielny still on holiday, plus Gabriel. One of them will play at the start of the season or at least be in the squad.

“At the moment I have a look at everybody and after I will make my final decision.

“But as you just said, it’s true that Holding adapted very quickly. All the three have top quality and all the three miss a little bit of experience. I’ll have to make a decision in two weeks.”

This comes after Wenger confirmed on Saturday that the club are looking to sign a defender ahead of the new season.

“Do I think we will sign an experienced central defender before the season starts? Yes, I do” the Frenchman stated.

Arsene Wenger is not alone in his pursuit of Valencia and German international defender Shkodran Mustafi, as Chelsea are also interested according to the Daily Mirror.

This comes after reports on Friday from Italy and Germany that the Gunners had ‘opened talks’ to sign the 24-year-old.

Valencia were believed to be willing to sell Mustafi if Arsenal met their £20.9m valuation of the player, who has only just returned from holiday following his Euro 2016 commitments with Germany.

However, the former Everton man is now understood to be interesting Antonio Conte once again, after the Blues were linked with Mustafi two weeks ago.