Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta hailed 19-year-old Bukayo Saka as the type of leader the team need after the youngster shone again in Tuesday night’s important win over Southampton, pushing the Gunners into the top half of the table.
From a miserable run from early November to Christmas, Arsenal have now taken 16 points out of the last 18 offered in the Premier League. Saka in particular played a crucial role in that regard, operating from a new role on the right flank and scoring four goals plus two assists.
With Arsenal seeking revenge for the FA Cup elimination this weekend, Tuesday night at St Mary’s was no different. He scored the second goal of the fire and prepared the third for Alexandre Lacazette to make the result more comfortable in the final stages.
Rising to the rank of leader in a team widely criticized for not having enough players of this type, especially in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, is huge.
“He has that [leadership]Arteta reflected on Saka’s performance, via Arsenal.com.
“He’s really humble, very respectful but at the same time he has that character in him and on the pitch, he can demand the ball. He can take actions and decisions that are not very usual for his age.
Learn more here: Bukayo Saka continues to blossom in new role in Arsenal win at Southampton
“It’s something great because we need that leadership and he wins it through his performance and his attitude towards the team.
Saka is at his best in an attacking role, although Arteta has admitted that he will continue to use the player in a defensive full-back or winger role from time to time due to lack of depth.
The left-back has been where he spent much of the breakout season in 2019/20, as he has operated as a winger-back again this season, usually when Arteta opts for a back-three and Kieran Tierney change inside.
“I think he’s a lot better when he’s playing in the back row of our offense. The truth is we only have one left-back and sometimes we’ll have to use it [at left-back]“Explained the Arsenal boss.
“It’s good for his development to play there too. Last season he played a lot of games there and became a much better player. He has this talent and he always wants to play in different positions. But obviously there are times when you have to try to find a certain stability in it.
“We just need to focus on the direction we are taking with him.”
Arsenal could reduce the need for Saka to play defensively if they sign another left-back in the transfer market to compete and provide cover for Tierney.
The Gunners have been linked this week with Jordan Amavi of Marseille, who previously played in the Premier League for Aston Villa and is expected to become a free agent this summer. Crystal Palace and Napoli are also said to be interested in the player.
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