Mikel Arteta expects summer signing Thomas Partey to finish the campaign “in a really strong way” as he targets a run of games.
The Ghanaian was Arsenal’s marquee summer signing following his £45m move from Atletico Madrid.
He quickly made an impression with several dominant performances in midfield, but injuries have disrupted his debut season.
Partey himself has faced criticism as he struggled for consistency, but Arteta has defended the 27-year-old who he claims is still adapting to his demands and those of English football.
He said: “Hopefully we will see the best version of Thomas at Sheffield United on Sunday and against Slavia Prague next week.
“Now that he has got a sequence of two or three games I think we’ll see him finishing the season in a really strong way.
“It’s very difficult to make a proper assessment of Thomas’ performances so far because he has missed six months and that is a long time.
“He is still adapting to our way of playing, which is different to what he did at Atletico, but we can all see what he brings to the team.
“It’s about him finding the level of consistency that we need from him because he has the capacity that we can build a team that can play around him.
“The biggest difficulty he has had so far is that he has not been fit. Then every time he recovered, he missed the next game.
“He has not had time to prepare himself physically to play at the highest level and that has obviously had an impact because the Premier League demands real fitness.”
Partey played in midweek as Arsenal let a late lead slip against Slavia Prague in the Europa League.
Success in the competition appears their best route into Europe next term given they sit 11th in the league.