Bukayo Saka must learn ‘to deal with expectations’ says Mikel Arteta

Mikel Arteta has warned Bukayo Saka that he must learn to deal with the increasing hype and excitement surrounding him and insisted the forward still has room for improvement.

Saka has been in sensational form for Arsenal this season, scoring 12 goals and providing 10 assists. He has been one of the consistently best performers for the best team in the country and enhanced his reputation with his displays for England during the recent international break, most emphatically in the 2-0 victory over Ukraine at Wembley when the 21-year-old scored one goal and set up the other.

Speaking before Arsenal’s game against Leeds on Saturday, Arteta was full of praise for Saka, describing him as humble and intelligent, and called on him to tap into those qualities in light of his contributions for club and country. Saka is third-favourite among most bookmakers to be named player of the season, behind Erling Haaland and teammate Martin Ødegaard.

“He’s going to have to deal with expectations of the media, with attention on the pitch,” said Arteta. “When you want to fulfil a role like the one he has at the moment, you need to be capable of doing that. So don’t read too much, don’t listen too much, just focus on what you have to do every day. That’s it.”

Arteta joked that he had a “stick ready” in case Saka gets carried away with himself but believes there is little chance of that. “The way he talks to people, how he behaves, how he treats people, that’s because he has been raised like that,” he said. The Spaniard is sure there is more to come from Saka should he be willing to listen and learn.

“He still has a lot of things to improve and a lot of things to maintain,” said Arteta, who on Friday was named the Premier League’s manager of the month for March, the fourth time he has won the award this season. “Before he wasn’t able to do that. So he needs to continue to maintain those things and elevate the level of other things that he can still do better.”

William Saliba limps off at the Emirates against Sporting on 16 March.
William Saliba limps off at the Emirates against Sporting on 16 March. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Arsenal have won six league games in a row and a seventh, combined with defeat for Manchester City against Liverpool earlier in the day, would extend their lead at the top to 11 points.

This could, then, prove a pivotal weekend in the title race and, as such, it is a blow for Arsenal that William Saliba is unavailable because of a back injury that some have speculated could force the impressive centre-back to miss the rest of the season. Arteta said he was hopeful that would not prove the case. “Hopefully we get the right load for him, the right amount of rest that he needs and the pain starts to go away,” he said.

Thomas Partey is fit despite concerns of an injury while the midfielder was with Ghana.

source: theguardian.com