Mikel Arteta says Bukayo Saka is reaping the benefits of last summer’s experience with England when he received huge plaudits for his performances at the European Championships.
Despite missing the decisive penalty in the shootout against Italy, the 20-year-old continues to go from strength to strength in Arsenal colours, playing more Premier League minutes and being involved in more goals for the Gunners than anyone else this season.
Saka was in fine fettle at Vicarage Road this afternoon, assisting Martin Odegaard’s opener before crashing home a fine effort of his own on the half-hour mark. He was also involved in his side’s third as he took a quick thrown-in, assisted by manager Mikel Arteta, that ultimately led to Gabriel Martinelli burying a finish that proved to be the winner.
After the 3-2 win, Arteta told his post-game press conference: “I think Bukayo had an experience in the summer that not a lot of players would ever have and I think it was great for his career because the football world showed how much they like him and how much they respect him.
“That’s another thing you get much more than that in football apart from winning trophies, so I think that was a big boost for him to realise in difficult moments that people are going to give him support and the club did exactly the same as his team mates. Then it’s about leaving him that space.
“What he is already doing is phenomenal and he needs that room, you know? Don’t read too much, do what you do. Football is his priority in life and you can see that every day in training and he needs to continue to behave and live the way that he is doing.”
Saka’s on-field relationship with Martin Odegaard also appears to be flourishing with the pair responsible for most of their side’s slick pass-and-move football in recent weeks. It’s something the boss is keen to develop further.
“I think it’s between them,” he said. “The way the game flows, the way we attack, how we adapt our positions relating to each other, how we move the ball.
“The speed of the movement, the timing if it is much better, the position that we get, the threat and the sense of having the capacity to create the chances that we have done is much better and we have to keep developing that.”
Arsenal’s win temporarily sees us climb up into fourth place with games in hand on rivals. While the chance to end our Champions League exodus is exciting, Saka is urging his teammates to stay humble.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the winger, who was awarded the man of the match award, said: “This is the dream this year to be in the top four and qualify for Champions League football. We have to stay humble and focus on ourselves.”