Belfast Telegraph

Shkodran Mustafi says Arsene Wenger speculation hard to avoid for Arsenal squad

Shkodran Mustafi admits it is hard for Arsenal's players to avoid speculation over Arsene Wenger's future but that it is up to them to have thick skin during a turbulent time for the club.

Wenger is yet to announce whether he will extend his over 20-year stint as Arsenal boss when his current contract expires at the end of the season.

The Frenchman insists that uncertainty over his future has had no baring on a poor run of form for the Gunners - even though they have only beaten Hull, Sutton and Lincoln since the start of February.

Mustafi's second Arsenal goal since his summer arrival from Valencia earned the hosts a point against Manchester City on Sunday but the German World Cup winner conceded it is a challenge to avoid the gossip surrounding Wenger.

"It is difficult, but we are professionals," he said.

"We are not only paid for playing football but to be professional as well. It's part of our job to have a little bit thicker skin.

"But in the days that we live in now, it is difficult because you see it everywhere, on TV, then you have social media where you see a lot of things. Sometimes you don't want to see it, even when you want to just text with friends or look at pictures that your family posted or whatever.

"You get to see pictures that maybe you don't want to see and then you read them and it might give you a bit of thinking that you should not think about.

"We're professionals and we get paid for that as well, to be professional on that part as well, not only on the pitch."

Wenger, who has seen fans protesting before, during and after recent matches as well as outside of the club's London Colney training base, said following the 3-1 defeat at West Brom last month that he has made up his mind whether he will stay or go.

He has yet to publicly announce that decision but Mustafi believes Arsenal need to address their on-field form rather than worry about Wenger, starting with the visit of West Ham on Wednesday night.

"The most important thing is to close the ears and focus ourselves on what's happening on the pitch, on details," he said.

"In the last few games, we have been having a lot of possession and playing with the ball quite well but then when it comes to details and concentration, we haven't been there.

"The most important thing is to get those details right and build up from the performance we had against Man City because I think we did quite well. We can go from there now and try to build up something.

"It is nice for everyone to talk about the manager and our situation because, let's face it, this is why football is big.

"But for me as a player, it is difficult to speak for all the team because I don't know what is going on in everyone's head but it is nothing I am worrying about.

"He (Wenger) has been here for 20 years. He knows what he has to do. Now it is us players who have to go on the pitch and bring the performance - that's all we have to focus on.

"We have focus first on ourselves to do our jobs right and then as a team. We don't have to get into speculation and everything that is going on around us. It is the wrong time. We should just focus on what is happening on the pitch.

"If he says he is going to leave or if he is going to stay, is it really going to help or will it make it worse? Who knows? I prefer to concentrate on what is going on, on the pitch."

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