Mikel Arteta hails Bukayo Saka’s reaction to difficult summer

The England international missed a penalty in the Euro 2020 Final and then suffered racist abuse

George Sessions
Saturday 25 December 2021 22:30
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Tuchel happy with young guns

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was worried about Bukayo Saka after a testing summer but immediately knew his talented youngster would be fine after their first meeting before the start of this season.

The 20-year-old suffered penalty shoot-out heartbreak for England in the final of Euro 2020 and then received racist abuse on social media.

Only a teenager at the time, his club manager was concerned over how the Gunners academy graduate would deal with the aftermath of such a pivotal moment but paid tribute to the reaction of the football world with thousands of letters written to Saka to offer support during the following months.

“I was worried with everything that happened in the summer with him but when I first met him after the holiday period, I realised he would cope with it well,” Arteta said.

“His reaction was incredible and then the support he had from everybody in football was something that gave him a big lift.

“It gave him a lot of reassurance and security. It really pushed him forward to say ‘okay this is just part of the journey’.”

Saka has continued to kick on at the Emirates, scoring on three occasions in the Premier League this season ahead of Sunday’s trip to Norwich while also creating four goals, which has bettered his top-flight assist tally from last term.

The versatile attacker is one of several young players to have developed impressively under Arteta with Emile Smith Rowe another huge talent.

Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah have also provided key contributions during the campaign despite the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

I was worried with everything that happened in the summer with him but when I first met him after the holiday period, I realised he would cope with it well.

Mikel Arteta on Bukayo Saka

Arteta added: “What I see is not only Bukayo but young boys with incredible enthusiasm and passion for this club, that are really willing to bring success.

“They are dealing with a lot of difficult situations in a great way but that shows as well the education they had, the background environment, the families they have and how supportive the club have also been with them throughout their careers.

“It is not normal at that age to be able to do what they have been doing and we have to be prepared for when they cannot cope with something. We have to be there straight away to identify that and act straight away.”

During Arteta’s two years in charge of the club he captained as a player, he has moved on numerous senior figures in Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, David Luiz, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Nacho Monreal.

Various others have departed on loan to help create a pathway for the talented youngsters who are now the heartbeat of the side but the Spaniard insists the credit does not lay with him.

“The reason we have spent a lot of effort and energy and we have been very consistent with our decisions is because we have a huge opportunity with the young talent we have at the club,” Arteta insisted.

“But that young talent has to be tough in the right way. The best way to see this is action.

“For me how much I coach them is less important than the environment that they grew up with. They needed that and now they have the perfect place to grow.

“That is why they are growing because they have the senior players doing what they have to do, they have the culture that is set, people who are really genuine and willing to help them and a club that is fully supportive and willing to give them opportunities.

“This is what they need to fulfil their potential. For me this is the reason why they are doing it, not because of the coaching.”

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