Mikel Arteta has praised Bukayo Saka’s “commitment” and “courage” during a difficult period for Arsenal, insisting the teenager is a “great example” to any young player.
Saka produced his second man-of-the-match display in four days as Arsenal followed up their 3-1 victory over Chelsea on Boxing Day with a hard-fought win against Brighton on Tuesday.
The academy product, who scored Arsenal’s third goal against Chelsea, provided the assist for Alexandre Lacazette’s winner at the Amex Stadium and caused Brighton problems throughout, further underlining his status as one of the country’s best young players.
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Since the start of last season, Saka has registered 15 assists in all competitions for Arsenal, more than any other player for the club, and Arteta has been impressed with the 19-year-old’s influence.
“For me, the biggest thing that he’s done in the past few months is the personality that he plays with and the responsibility he takes,” the Arsenal boss said ahead of his side’s trip to West Brom in the Premier League on Saturday.
“Also the decisions he’s willing to make when things are not going well and the impact he’s had on the team to get results. That’s in his nature and he wants to evolve that.
“You can see his team-mates trust him, they still want to give him that responsibility and that’s great. He’s a great example to any young player to play with that commitment, that passion but as well, with that courage you need when you play for a big team.”
Saka was substituted late on against Brighton after appearing to injure his ankle, but Arteta is confident he will be fit when his side travel to The Hawthorns.
“I hope he’s available. We will see with training today. He’s played a lot of minutes as well. I am confident that he will be OK for the game,” Arteta added.
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‘Pressure has lifted a little’
Arsenal recorded back-to-back league wins for the first time since September by beating Brighton to lift the mood at the club heading into the new year.
Defeat at Everton on December 19 left the Gunners only four points above the relegation zone after 14 games – their worst start to the season since 1974/75, but fortunes changed with victory over Chelsea last weekend.
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“We needed those results that’s for sure, but we need a much longer run than that,” Arteta said.
“There are things that we have done much better to get the results in the last two games, but there a lot of things we have to do better and improve.
“Confidence wise, obviously it’s a completely different scenario when you are winning football matches and everybody is playing with more freedom and more belief. The pressure gets released a little bit and that’s always a positive thing.”
Arteta: Allardyce ‘very efficient’
Arsenal head to West Brom this weekend looking for a third consecutive win against a side who have won just once in the Premier League this season.
The Baggies’ previous match under new boss Sam Allardyce ended in a 5-0 defeat to Leeds, but Arteta says draws against Liverpool and Manchester City in recent weeks have shown what they are capable of.
“Against Liverpool, they had a really clear plan and they executed it really good,” Arteta said.
“I think even going 1-0 down, they didn’t really change anything at all. They knew they were going to have their moments, they grew and they got into the game and were much more efficient in the second half and put Liverpool in trouble.
“Sam is very efficient in what he does. He has a very clear philosophy of playing. He always picks up results and he always makes it very difficult for you.
“His teams are always really well organised and they know exactly what to do, so it will be a tough test again.”
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