Arsene Wenger admits Hector Bellerin hasn’t found his best form since returning from injury earlier in the season but insists the Spaniard doesn’t deserve to be on the receiving end of criticism from frustrated Arsenal fans.
The 22-year-old, who committed himself to the club for another six and a half years in November, bore the brunt of fan anger both during and after last week’s defeat to Crystal Palace and had to be consoled by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at full time.
Reflecting on the situation, Wenger told Arsenal Player that his young charge is doing his best to focus on the simple side of his game by defending better.
“I think it’s unfair because he’s a guy who is genuinely Arsenal and wants to do well,” said Wenger.
“I agree that for a while he was not the Hector Bellerin we had seen at the start of the season. He has not come back to his level since he has been injured.
“Then you get bad habits and you forget that your job first is to defend and win challenges because you protect yourself a little bit.
“I think now he is trying to focus on again what is important, to defend well. After he can give us the extra bit [going forward] that is important as well.”
The boss also took a moment to remind fans that supporting the club and players through this particularly dire run of results is vital.
He added: “The fans want to be behind the team and the way we respond on the football pitch will decide the attitude of the fans.
“The fans love the club. It’s a good period to be united and not divided. Historically Arsenal has been about that. One of our values is to be together. There’s no better period of the season than to show it now.”
Wenger didn’t touch on Hector’s hair, although there are rumours he may make the Spaniard cut off his man bun as part of any agreement to stay on at the club.
Never one to shy away from a problem, Hector himself insists that he and the team will only grow stronger as a result of the criticism.
“In other seasons, we’ve gone through bad patches, but probably not as bad as in this one,” he told Arsenal Player.
“You need to learn to deal with people saying bad things about you and you need to learn to deal with stuff that’s not happened before.
“It will make me stronger, that’s how I see it. Some people can be destroyed or collapse but I think I and everyone at the club needs to look at it positively.
“We just need to do our job on the pitch. We know that fans are angry, we know that people want results because we’re Arsenal and that’s what’s expected from us.
“But it’s been a long time that we went through a patch like this so we need to make sure that we recover from it. Trust me, we’re trying as hard as we can.”