Bernd Leno thinks Bukayo Saka has been one of Arsenal’s best players this season and has praised the youngster’s professionalism.
While the Gunners have struggled at times this season, the 19-year-old’s reputation continues to go from strength to strength.
The Academy graduate has scored six goals and made seven assists in 37 games and become a full England international in the process.
Leno has been impressed with his development and the maturity he shows on and off the pitch.
“His performances are incredible,” said the German ahead of Thursday’s Europa League clash with Slavia Prague.
“He’s a top player and he has a top mentality. I think it’s very unusual for a young player like him because he’s very professional.
“He feels older than he is because he’s almost leading the team. This is a very good sign. I’m pretty sure he will become a world-class player.
“We are very happy to have him because this season – I don’t know if he’s the best – he’s been one of the best players.”
Arsenal confirmed today that Saka will be available for the trip to Prague despite picking up a knock in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Sheffield United. We’ll need his creativity in what’s shaping up to be our biggest game of the season so far.
Reflecting on last week’s 1-1 draw at the Emirates, Leno said, “I think you could see after the first leg how disappointed we were. It’s still only half-time, though, and you could see how big this game was for us. Tomorrow even more.
On our opponents, he added: “They have beaten good teams in the competition. We dominated them in our home game but you could also see that they are very dangerous on counter-attacks, on set-pieces.
“We know what to expect and it will be a very tough game, especially away. But we also know that it’s a dangerous result for both teams.
“Once we score one goal, they are under big pressure. This should be our target: to score the first goal and then with a second goal we can almost finish the game because they’ll have to score three goals. There’s only one way, which is to go through. Nothing else.”
If Arsenal fail to progress to the semi-finals tomorrow, next season stands to be the first since 1995 without European football. It’s a scenario that Leno wouldn’t even countenance when pressed on the issue.
“When you think of a future without Arsenal in European competition, it doesn’t feel right. Our job is to make sure it doesn’t come true. Arsenal belongs to Europe and that’s our target. That’s our job.”