Mikel Arteta has roundly been praised for Arsenal’s resurgence in recent weeks but one of the players he will credit for the new-found form is Bukayo Saka and the Spaniard will need the youngster to be in his good element when they host Manchester United on Saturday. Having stolen the show with a goal and assist in a 3-1 victory over Southampton on Tuesday, Saka has once again been the talk of the footballing world. Saka has emerged as arguably the most important player at Arsenal this season.
The Nigerian-born English player made his debut three seasons ago, and he has continued to improve. He is now one of the first names on the team sheet and has even been touted as the captain of the club in the not-so-distant future; that has been attested to by Arteta himself. Six goals and five assists in 26 appearances this season tell only a fraction of the whole story. He now has more than all other Premier League teenagers combined, for instance. He also has four goals and two assists in his last six Premier League games.
One of his key attributes has been his versatility. Wherever he has been asked to play, he has played that position brilliantly. Being left-footed, he was initially played as a left-back or on the left-wing by Arteta. However, he was recently made a right-sided attacker and he has been delivering fine performances from that position. But it is also his ability to drive the team forward which has left a mark on Arteta, who admits such a status is not usually seen in someone so young.
“He’s got that,” he replied when asked about Saka being a leader on the pitch. “He’s really humble, really respectful, but at the same time he’s got that character within him and on the pitch he can demand the ball. “He can make actions and decisions that is not very usual at his age.
“That’s something that is great because we need that leadership and he’s gaining that with his performances and attitude around the team.” Arteta previously worked with Raheem Sterling at Manchester City and saw the forward flourish after adding goals to his all-round game – something Saka is now replicating. “Bukayo is doing really well and is always asking to train more and improve in areas that he can do better,” added the Spaniard.
“That (scoring) was certainly one, at producing the final bit in the box to score or assist, and he’s doing that much more often. “He’s able to do that with the work he has put in and the intelligence he’s shown on the pitch, and with the capacity he has to understand the game from different positions he becomes a really complete player.” He has continued to improve and that is what Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and his men will find out on Saturday.