‘Enjoy the moment’: Mikel Arteta tells Bukayo Saka to relish his good form as youngster continues to shine
- Bukayo Saka has been one of Arsenal’s standout performers this season
- The 18-year-old has developed into one of the country’s brightest talents
- Mikel Arteta wants him to make the most of the good form he is in
The 18-year-old has developed into one of the country’s brightest talents and is likely to form a key part of Arteta’s plans ahead of the North London Derby on Sunday.
Ahead of the weekend, only Kevin De Bruyne and Trent Alexander-Arnold had more assists in all competitions among Premier League players than Saka’s 12 this season.
Mikel Arteta has told Bukayo Saka to ‘enjoy the moment’ as the young Arsenal star shines
He has duly been rewarded with a new long-term contract while Southgate is due to assess the youngster at next weekend’s FA Cup semi-final.
‘First of all, enjoy the moment,’ said Arteta. ‘Football has some really good moments and some difficult moments. You are doing so well, enjoy it. But then understand, this changes in 24, 48 hours. You have to live on your toes all the time ready to react and act.
‘Bukayo is like this. Every training session he doesn’t give you any sign that there’s something different. There are going to be moments when he was a little bit up and down. It’s normal because it happens to every single player, whether you are 18 or 38. He needs to understand that, take it naturally and we are here to support him, to try to make him better, and that’s it. Enjoy!’
As the old adage goes, things change quickly in football. Yet fortunes have never quite evolved as fast as they do now with games every few days.
It is only 22 days ago that Mikel Arteta’s side fell to defeat at Brighton. Neal Maupay’s late goal was compounded by Matteo Guendouzi grabbing him around the throat. Did Arteta realise the task of what he taken on.
The 18-year-old has developed into one of the country’s brightest talents
Yet a new three-man defence has helped lead to three straight league wins, a place in the FA Cup semi-final, followed by a draw against Leicester and, suddenly, Arsenal go into today’s (Sunday) North London Derby with renewed vigour and a clear plan for what the future may hold under Arteta with width, pace and energy in wide positions.
‘We’ve changed a little bit our formation. We need to adapt and be more flexible. We cannot be so predictable. It is an important thing to do so that we are able to dominate in different scenarios and in different formations and improve as a team.’
The return to fitness of Kieran Tierney has also been a bonus for Arteta. The £25m summer signing from Celtic had seen his first season at the club blighted by injury but has impressed since the restart.
‘I am very impressed with him,’ said Arteta. ‘Everybody loves him at the club and it is not a coincidence: he earns that every single day, the way he treats people, the way he works around the way, the energy he brings to the place. And then with his performances I am delighted. He has adapted really, really well. He is a player that gives you everything in every session and every game and the quality as well that he is adding. He is still so young, there are still things to improve obviously, but he has been a great addition to the team.
‘He had a really difficult period because of the injuries, because he moved to a different city, a different context that he had in Glasgow with a club that was winning all the time and where he was very settled. It was a challenge for him. He has been dealing with that in the best possible way, with some difficulties. He needed the club to support him, he needed his team-mates to make life easier for him. We are all trying to help him.’
Tierney’s season had been so frustrating that it had led to speculation that Arsenal could even cash in on him this summer,
‘He is not going anywhere! I really like him’