Mikel Arteta tells Arsenal teenager Bukayo Saka to 'enjoy the moment'

Nick Ames on 11 July 2020

Mikel Arteta has told Bukayo Saka to take pleasure in the rapid progress that has led him to become a contender for a place in the England squad, warning football will also provide its fair share of knocks.

Saka will play in his first north London derby when Arsenal go to Tottenham on Sunday and the scale of the 18-year-old’s achievement in becoming a key player is significant, given he had played seven minutes of top-flight football before this season.

His assist for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goal against Leicester on Tuesday was his 12th in all competitions, coming from a range of different positions. The hype is well under way but Arteta believes Saka should drink it all in provided he is ready to overcome setbacks.

“First of all, enjoy the moment,” Arteta said when asked what he would tell the teenager to shield him from the spotlight. “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 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 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.”

Arteta has fielded Saka, a naturally left-footed player, as a right-sided attacker in Arsenal’s past two games. He did not look especially comfortable at Wolves but still scored an excellent goal. In the draw with Leicester he oozed danger during the first half and it remains to be seen whether he is moved back to the left, given Eddie Nketiah’s suspension may cause an attacking rejig.

The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.

If Alexandre Lacazette, who missed a crucial chance against Leicester but produced one of his best displays of the season, keeps his place then Arteta will probably retain a setup that had Aubameyang customarily stationed on the left.

Aubameyang will be supported by Kieran Tierney, who has been another of Arsenal’s best performers since last month’s restart. The marauding wing-back endured an injury-plagued six months after arriving from Celtic, leading to speculation about a quick move elsewhere, but Arteta scotched that idea.

“He’s not going anywhere – I really like him,” he said. “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, the energy he brings. 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.”

Nketiah is Arsenal’s only new absentee and there appears little prospect of Matteo Guendouzi or Mesut Özil returning at Spurs. Guendouzi, who has been training alone, seems increasingly likely to have played his last game for the club.

Latest football headlines

Latest Football News