Mikel Arteta says Bukayo Saka is becoming a ‘complete player’ thanks to the hard work he puts in on the training ground.
Fielded on the right side of the Spaniard’s attack against Southampton, the England international made two decisive contributions as Arsenal ran out 3-1 winners at Saint Mary’s.
First, he raced onto an Alex Lacazette through ball and rounded keeper Alex McCarthy to put the Gunners ahead before the break; an action he later revealed was pre-planned. He then combined with the Frenchman again with 18 minutes remaining, this time turning provider with a teasing cross that the striker bundled home.
Four goals and two assists in his last six Premier League appearances underline that Saka is a man in form with some drawing comparisons to the quality of national team colleague Raheem Sterling.
“Bukayo is doing really well and is always asking to train more and improve in areas that he can do better,” said Arteta in his post-game press conference.
“That 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.”
Saka’s versatility is something that has helped him earn minutes since he broke through the ranks under Unai Emery. While his current stint on the right is proving very fruitful, Arteta admits that there will be times when he leans on the player at left-back again if he’s short in that part of the pitch.
“I think he’s much better when he plays in the last line of our attack,” said Arteta.
“The truth is that we have only one left-footed full back and sometimes we’ll have to use him there. It’s good for his development as well to play there.
“Last season he played a lot of games there and became a much better player. He’s got that talent and he’s always keen to play in different positions. But obviously in certain moments, we have to try to find some stability for him. We just need to focus on where we are heading with him.”
Arteta also believes that regular minutes is helping Saka grow in stature within the camp. While he comes across as a quiet lad, he’s starting to develop a confidence on the pitch that sets the tone for his teammates. He’s becoming a leader.
“He’s got that,” said Arteta. “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.”