By Mark Mann-Bryans
Unai Emery has told Shkodran Mustafi and Mohamed Elneny to find new clubs in the coming days — for the good of their own careers. The pair have dropped down the pecking order at the Emirates Stadium and were expected to be sold this summer.
However, with the Premier League transfer deadline closed and the European window shutting on September 2, both are yet to move on. Mustafi played plenty of football in Emery’s first season in charge but has always polarised the opinion of supporters and has made plenty of mistakes.
He remains Arsenal’s fifth most expensive signing but could leave in a cut-price deal in the coming days having not made the squad for the first two Premier League games.
Elneny, also yet to feature having played for Egypt at the African Cup of Nations, arrived from Basle in January 2016 but has never been able to hold down a regular place in the Arsenal midfield.
After signing the likes of David Luiz and loanee Dani Ceballos this summer, Emery is keen to move on players who will be unsettled by a lack of first-team opportunities.
“We have now some players, they know their situation,” he said. “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.
“They are very big players but for one circumstance or another, they are going to have less chances to show their capacity or to be happy with us and the minutes they play in matches.
“We respect them, they are training with us, but they know their situation and only I am wishing the best for them.”
It would be a surprise if either Elneny or Mustafi played any part in tomorrow’s Premier League trip to Liverpool. The only two sides with two wins from two meet at Anfield in the evening kick-off and Emery insists he is ready to hand club-record signing Nicolas Pepe his first Arsenal start.
“The most important thing is, like a person, to help him and his family to feel comfortable here,” Emery said of the £72m (€80m) man. "Now he is three weeks into working here with us. He didn’t do the pre-season here but he’s progressively feeling better.
“For example, in the first match, he played 15 minutes in Newcastle, then he played 45 minutes against Burnley. I think his individual performances are progressively getting better.
“For Saturday, he is maybe ready to have more minutes. I am going to decide tomorrow, but really his progress has been positive and has been good for the team and for him. The most important piece of the adaptation is to help him to feel easy and be comfortable with us.”
Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka are also both expected to be available having recovered from the minor issues which saw them miss the 2-1 win over Burnley last time out.