By Will Butcher
Andy Hinchcliffe believes Shkodran Mustafi’s fitness is pivotal to Arsenal’s Premier League title challenge this season.
The 24-year-old signed for the Gunners in a £35million switch from La Liga outfit Valencia in the summer and starred for Arsene Wenger’s side before suffering a hamstring injury in December.
Speaking to Sky Sports’ Premier League Daily Show on Friday, former Everton ace Hinchcliffe believes Mustafi is the kind of player that can make the difference in a title challenge.
“Mustafi is outstanding, that’s why they signed him in the summer,” Hinchcliffe said. “He is crucial to their title challenge, defensively he is the kind of player that wins you titles.
“He is a potential weakness if he gets injured again, and without him their title challenge will take a huge hit. They’ve got a brilliant attack but Mustafi is key.”
The Germany international made his return to Arsenal’s starting eleven on Tuesday during the 3-3 draw against Bournemouth, after missing four league games with a hamstring injury.
Without the former Everton defender, the Gunners suffered defeats to Everton and Man City as they suffered a blip in their attempts at providing a challenge to Antonio Conte’s Chelsea.
Partnering Laurent Koscielny at the heart of the Gunners defence, Mustafi has helped his side keep five clean sheets in his 18 league and cup appearances and is yet to lose as an Arsenal player.
Mustafi could be rested against Championship outfit Preston on Saturday in the third round of the FA Cup, with a must-win league game against struggling Swansea coming up on January 14.
In other Arsenal news, fans have reacted on Twitter after winger Alex Iwobi won this prestigious award.