4 — the number of Premier League games Arsenal will play between now and the turn of the New Year. 0 — games for which the Gunners will have standout center back Shkodran Mustafi after the German international picked up a “bad” hamstring injury on Saturday.
Mustafi (12 starts), who alongside Laurent Koscielny (14 starts) has anchored one of the PL’s stingiest defenses this season (15 goals conceded in 15 games — 3rd-fewest after Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea), is expected to miss at least three weeks after leaving Saturday’s comeback victory over Stoke City after just 25 minutes, according to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger — quotes from Arsenal.com:
“It’s a bad one. He had nothing in midweek. I would not have played him today (if he had). I had Hector Bellerin on the bench. I could have played Holding or Gabriel. He wanted to play in Basel, because he said ‘no it’s nothing’, and it was completely clear. I checked three times and there was no problem for. I don’t know why it happened, but it looks a ‘good’ hamstring strain.”
“Look, the minimum when you go out like that is 21 days. After that, today is December 10, so you are 21 days, that means he’ll have a nice Christmas.”
Gabriel Paulista seems the most likely candidate to replace Mustafi at center back, though the Brazilian has endured an injury-plagued season of his own (just three appearances in the PL) and found himself on the outside looking in thus far. 21-year-old Rob Holding started the first three PL games of the season, but hasn’t appeared in a league game since Aug. 27.