Mikel Arteta says Bukayo Saka has what it takes to be a left-back having shown real application in his attempt to get to grips with the role.
The 18-year-old, a winger by trade, has done very well covering for Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac who have both been sidelined by injuries in the last month.
Unable to call on the Scot until mid-March and with Kolasinac suffering from repeated muscular problems (the latest will rule him out until early Feb), the Gunners have been linked with a move for Paris Saint Germain’s Layvin Kurzawa.
There’s nothing to suggest that Saka couldn’t make the role his own though, especially with the Ligue 1 club having doubts about a sale after an injury to first-choice Juan Bernat.
After Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Sheffield United, Arteta said: “I think he [Saka] could (have a future at left-back) because he’s willing to learn.
“He is applying himself big time he is someone that’s has never played (that position) before but he’s really trying to do it as well as possible.
“You can see that he’s got many strengths to play in that position.
“Obviously he needs games, he needs experience and he needs to improve in some areas but that’s very good.”
Saka dovetailed really well with Gabriel Martinelli on Saturday, providing the assist for the Brazilian to open the scoring. While their youthful energy is no surprise, the fact both players have proved themselves robust enough to deal with the Premier League is a real bonus.
Saka certainly seems to be enjoying himself. “I just feel like the manager makes things so clear for me. He gives me a lot of confidence to trust me as an 18-year-old to play in that position,” he told The Athletic (£).
“He gives me a structure to how I should play, when I should go forward, when I should cover. For a young player the most important thing is to have the trust of your manager to show what you can do.
“He knows our capability from the training ground but we have to show it in games. Also it helps to have guys like David Luiz and Granit Xhaka to give me advice and help me with positioning.”
He added: “It’s the boss’s decision and if he puts me there, I am going to give my best. I like to get goals and assists, which is what I do when I play on the wing, but even as a full-back that shouldn’t really stop me. I still have the opportunity to help play up the pitch.”