Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said Thomas Partey was not rushed back from a thigh problem this season as he backed the Ghanaian midfielder to put his injury woes behind him and hit top gear.
Partey joined Arsenal on transfer deadline day for €50 million but injuries have limited him to just 16 appearances this season.
Partey injured his thigh in November but returned for the 2-0 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur in December, a game in which he pulled up shortly before halftime with a recurrence of the problem. He was sidelined until January.
“He ticked every box to be able to play,” Arteta said. “After every injury, there is a risk for a period, whether it is five days, a week… three weeks depending on the load that the player is exposed to.
“But it was a really specific action where he just overstretched the area going to the floor and got his foot trapped,” Arteta added. “Before the game, you cannot know that would have been the way.
“It would be easy to say: ‘Yes, we made a mistake’ – but who would have known if he had played the next game or if he had come off the bench and played 30 minutes instead?”
Partey has so far struggled to adapt to the demands of the Premier League, but Arteta said he was confident Arsenal fans would soon see the best of the 27-year-old.
“Rhythm-wise he has struggled a little bit because he hasn’t had enough training preparation,” he said. “But you can see his presence and the special qualities he provides to the team when he is on the pitch.
“I think it is just a fact of playing more games, getting some chemistry and understanding with his teammates and getting as fit as he possibly can.”
Arsenal, 10th in the Premier League on 38 points from 27 games, take on Tottenham on Sunday.