Merson explains how Arteta is stunting progress of ‘best player’ for Arsenal vs Lens

Will Ford
Mikel Arteta, Arsenal, November 2023
Mikel Arteta standing on the sideline during Arsenal match

Paul Merson believes Kai Havertz was Arsenal’s “best player” in their win over Lens, but reckons Mikel Arteta is doing the former Chelsea man no favours.

Havertz – who joined the Gunners for £65m in the summer – has struggled for form in his debut season under Arteta, but scored his second goal in two games on Wednesday, opening the scoring in their 6-0 mauling of the Ligue 1 side.

Merson is convinced the Germany international is a “top player” and was the star of the show at the Emirates, but believes Arsenal would see the best of him if Arteta played him in the “right position”.

He told Sky Sports: “Havertz is a confidence player and he’s playing with confidence right now.

“I thought he was the best player on the pitch. He was elegant, he picked the right passes and made the right decisions. He’s a top player. I don’t think he’s playing in the right position but he’s still a top player.”

It is not the first time Merson has criticised Arteta’s use of Havertz. Speaking after Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Burnley earlier this month, Merson said: “I don’t think he’s a midfield player I think he’s a centre forward.

“He’s 6ft 4in, maybe he’s a No.10. What he did do and they did well Arsenal they got the ball in the box and he got in the box. He’s a big lad I hope he does well I think he’s a special player and he’s struggling.”

Arteta hailed Havertz’s recent form as he followed up his winner at Brentford.

“He is scoring goals, playing well, participating in wins; those are positive attributes,” Arteta said in his post-match press conference. “You’ve seen the reception of his team-mates, the crowd singing his name and being with him in every positive action that he had, those are all good things that are going to help him to show why he’s a tremendous player.”

READ MORE: Arteta ws delighted with the performance of his team as a whole as they qualified for the knockout stages as group winners with a game to spare.

Arteta was delighted with his team’s display as a whole, as they qualified for the knockout stages as group winners with a game to spare.

“I didn’t even dream like this, but we had the chance to qualify today and become top of the group and we’ve done it in a really convincing way against a really good side,” he said.

“I think the team right from the beginning showed a lot of aggression and determination to go for the game, everything happened in the right way especially in the first 30 minutes and that was really helpful to win the game.”