Bukayo Saka says Freddie Ljungberg’s presence has proved vital in helping him acclimatise to life in and around Arsenal’s first team, in part because the Swede is able to clarify, in better English, the instructions of coach Unai Emery.
The 18-year-old winger announced himself on the European stage with a man-of-the-match performance against Eintracht Frankfurt as he opened his Gunners account and made two assists in a 3-0 win.
Having admitted that scoring was a ‘very proud moment’ the teenager went on to thank Ljungberg, who managed him at under-15 and under-23 level before taking on a new role with the senior players this summer.
“It helps so much [having him around],” said Saka. “Sometimes when I don’t understand, when the coach is trying to communicate with me, I have a better communication with Freddie sometimes, he speaks better English.
“Freddie’s information, he’s been a player at this level before, and it’s vital for me because I play in the same position as me and he’s been a big part in my progress.
“He gives a lot of advice to me every day but one of the most, the best piece of advice he’s given me is to stay humble.
“He’s been with me since I was 15, seen me do amazing things but he always tells me to stay humble, keep working hard because he really thinks I can be a top player.”
Saka also revealed that he takes his inspiration from Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I love his mentality,” said the winger. “He always wants to be the best, always working hard on and off the pitch, trying to make his body the best and when he gets on the pitch he performs with full confidence and full personality and shows why he’s one of the best players to ever play football.
“We are two different players. He is unique, but I try to look at him and take the good things from his game and one of the good things from his game is his mentality. He’s always focused, always working, and I try to do that as well.”
So long as he doesn’t whip his shirt off every time he scores, we might be okay with Saka emulating Ronaldo. Just.