Arsenal starlet Bukayo Saka can look back over time and reflect that generally he is right in thinking that, yes, the 2019/20 season was an eventful one. The talented Gunners ace burst onto the scene thanks to his speed and attacking flair and was then asked by Gunners boss Mikel Arteta to do a job for the team at left-back. Which he did to a very high standard, by the way.
Now he has told of the huge influence that Arteta has had on his flourishing career at the Emirates Stadium. Arteta, who came in from his role as No.2 at Manchester City to replace Unai Emery, has managed to instil extra confidence into the youngster – who is still only aged 18. And as a result the fleet-of-foot wide man has turned in some dazzling displays that helped rescue the Gunners season, to a degree — but then saw all the hard work frustratingly put on ice as the coronavirus pandemic put paid to the season. Well, suspended at least. When and if the Premier League season will resume remains to be seen, of course.
Speaking to the club’s official website, Saka — who became the third-youngest player to start a top-flight game for Arsenal (as Arteta watched on as Freddie Ljungberg’s side got a draw at Everton) — said he thinks he has risen to the challenge and that he has enjoyed making the adjustment from attacker to defender.
“He is someone who understands the players, understands the club and all the ideas that he’s bringing in. He has a clear strategy of how he wants us to play and we’re just really excited to work with him. He’s teaching us little things that we didn’t know before and just bringing in his own strategies, his own ways of playing. We can see that it is going to work, we’re just looking forward to doing it.”
Saka says that perhaps one thing that he has managed to pick up straight away is that when nobody’s pressing him, he doesn’t need to pass the ball. He added:
“What you can do is just get the ball, drive the ball forward a bit and wait for someone to come to you, commit a player, then pass. Then that man will be free or that man will have less pressure on him. It’s just attracting players before you pass the ball off, which will really help our team-mates a lot on the pitch.”
Saka insists that Arteta has his own philosophy and this is being harnessed by the players and the coaches to try to bring the Gunners back to the direction they need to be in.
“We need to win games and win trophies, so I feel like he has that vision and that strategy. He knows how he wants us to get there. If we can be on board and do what he wants us to, we’ll do well.”