Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has claimed that fatigue played a crucial part in Shkodran Mustafi being forced from the field in their defeat to Olympiakos.
The Gunners were knocked out of the Europa League Round of 32 on away goals at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday evening, with the defender unable to finish the game.
Mustafi had to be substituted during the first half of extra-time, as Arsenal were beaten 1-0 in normal time by the Greek outfit.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang though he had won it for the Gunners with just seven minutes remaining, before the visitors found the net in the final minute to stun the home supporters.
The hectic schedule of competing in Europe seems to have had an adverse effect on the London side, which seems to have led to Mustafi picking up an injury.
“I don’t know,” Arteta said when asked why the defender had to leave the field, as reported by Football London.
“He said to me ‘I cannot play anymore’, I don’t know if it’s a cramp or a muscle injury so I’m sure there will be a few of those because the players were exhausted, they played four times in seven days and it was physically a very demanding game.”
Mustafi has featured just 18 times for Arsenal this season, however he has been a regular fixture in the side since their 1-1 draw with Sheffield on January 18th.
Eight appearances during that period seems to have been too much for the 27-year-old, and the Gunners will now face an anxious wait to find out the extent of the injury he sustained.
Thursday’s defeat has not only ended Arsenal’s hopes of winning the Europa League, but has also dented their chances of featuring in Europe next season.
The Gunners are currently sat in ninth place in the Premier League table, four points off the top five with just 11 games remaining.
Arteta’s men will need to bounce back from their midweek disappointment and hope for a positive end to the season, starting with the visit of West Ham United a week on Saturday.
Alternatively, winning the FA Cup will clinch a place in the qualifying stages of the Europa League, with Arsenal facing Portsmouth in the fifth round of the competition on Monday evening.