At the start of September, Mikel Arteta came out swinging in support of Kai Havertz, declaring his love for the Germany international and calling on supporters to back the summer signing from Chelsea.
He made the comments knowing full well that sections of the media and the fanbase were already grumbling that the 24-year-old wasn’t living up to expectations following his £62.5 million move from Chelsea.
Four weeks and five appearances later, people still seem unconvinced that Havertz is a worthy successor to Granit Xhaka in the left-eight position. If his team selections are anything to go by, even Arteta has been wavering a little, dropping the player to the bench for the win at Everton and the North London derby.
Everybody is waiting for something to click. But nobody can quite put their finger on what that something is.
As things stand, the boss remains supportive and patient, pointing out that Havertz hasn’t had much time to get used to his new surroundings or Arsenal’s playing style. It certainly hasn’t helped his cause that injuries to teammates have robbed the German of a chance to develop the ‘automatisms’ required to make ‘Artetaball’ tick.
Facing the media ahead of Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth, Arteta was asked how he plans to get the best out of Havertz.
“We try to help him as much as possible. Be next to him, give him the tools, give him the confidence and give him the minutes to exploit his talent.
“There are so many parts of his game that he’s doing exceptionally well and we know the ones that needs to keep improving.
“As always, with any players, give him support, especially when you see a player that does what he does every single day, the way he tries, the way he applies himself. Give him support, more tools and if they don’t perform it’s up to us.”
Put to him that Havertz needs to play himself into form, Arteta agreed.
“Yes, and he needs to glide within the team. The amount of time he’s played in the left unit with those players is three times, four times,” said the manager.
“We’re going to have to carry on doing that. And certainly, we have the experience of that with many other players. And try to give him as much support and confidence as we possibly can because that’s going to help him for sure.”
Arteta was later asked how he’s starting to get the best out of Reiss Nelson, a player who looked destined to leave the club but was rewarded with a new long-term contract after dramatic interventions as a substitute last season.
The winger has been down the pecking order behind Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Leandro Trossard but showed on Wednesday night that he can be a matchwinner as a starter. The winger’s early goal against Brentford in the Carabao Cup showed a killer instinct that was matched by an impressive defensive display.
“To find consistency you need to be available,” said Arteta of a player that has struggled with injuries.
“If you miss periods, you know your peak of form is going to be disrupted and obviously then you’re going to have less chances to play.
“He had a niggle in pre-season, he was out and now he’s come back and he’s finding form.
“We need him, he has special qualities to play in wide areas in both positions and especially with the situation we have now with the front players, it’s been really important.
“We have to see him starting [games] as well,” said Arteta when asked if he sees the player more as an impact substitute.
“We want to have a team that is more unpredictable and that has the resources to rotate. They have to become starters as well, if not, it’s not enough.”