Unai Emery has told Shkodran Mustafi and Mohamed Elneny to find “another challenge” before the end of the European transfer window, with both players resigned to bit-part roles if they remain at Arsenal beyond 2 September.
It means they have a week and a half to find new employers and, despite interest in Mustafi from Monaco and in Elneny from Turkish Super Lig sides, no deal has been struck. Emery said a fortnight ago he had spoken to Mustafi about the defender’s future and reiterated in clearer terms that it was in his best interest to depart.
“They are very big players but for one circumstance or another they are going to have fewer chances to show their capacity or to be happy with us and the minutes they play in matches,” Emery said. “But they know the situation and really I am wishing the best for them. I think now the best for them is to be protagonists in another team and to get another challenge for themselves.”
Mustafi started 31 of Arsenal’s Premier League games last season but was widely criticised for his role in several weak defensive showings, particularly towards a calamitous end to the campaign. He was booed by supporters during pre-season and a way back has never looked likely. Elneny was involved 17 times across all competitions and has scant prospect of serious involvement in the first team if he does not move on.
“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,” Emery said. “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.”
Arsenal have brought in around £55m from player sales this summer but have spent nearly £140m. Moving on squad players would help redress the balance.
Emery hinted that the most expensive of those newcomers, the club-record signing Nicolas Pépé, could make his first start at Liverpool on Saturday evening. The £72m forward came on at half-time in the victory against Burnley, building on another substitute appearance at Newcastle on the opening day.
“I think his individual performances are progressively getting better,” Emery said. “For Saturday, he is maybe ready to have more minutes. I am going to decide [on Friday] but really his progress has been positive and has been good for the team and for him.”