Mikel Arteta has admitted he was “shocked” at the poisonous atmosphere at Arsenal between the fans and the players when he first took over at the club.
Arteta succeeded Unai Emery, whose defensive style of football and dour demeanor did not go down well with supporters.
The team were regularly booed off the pitch as the results worsened towards the end of Emery’s reign.
And midfielder Granit Xhaka was involved in ugly scenes when he gesticulated towards fans as they jeered him off when he was substituted in a game against Crystal Palace.
Speaking in an interview with Arsenal’s official website, Arteta admitted that rebuilding the frayed relationship between players and supporters was one of his first priorities when he arrived.
“You cannot build something new [quickly], when something has been damaged and hurt badly, that you can see a big split between even our own fans and the team,” Arteta said.
“You have to rebuild that [bond]. In order to do that you have to build some foundations, and afterwards start a process. You have to prioritise that process at the start, and where you are going to get to.
“To do that you need some pieces that have to fill in there, and you have to start to create a puzzle and try to manage it because there will be bad moments and you don’t want to break it.
“All the time you have to be very alert because it takes very little to break what you are building.”
Arteta and Arsenal will be desperate to bounce back from their disappointing 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa in their last Premier League game when they take on Leeds United this weekend in their first match since the international break.
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