Bukayo Saka: Mikel Arteta praises Arsenal youngster - 'Not usual for his age'

Arteta on Saka: "He has that character to demand the ball, to make decisions that are not very usual for his age"; 19-year-old scored one and assisted another as Arsenal made it five wins from six in the Premier League; Gunners moved into top half for the first time since mid-November

Bukayo Saka celebrates his goal
Image: Bukayo Saka celebrates his goal against Southampton

Mikel Arteta says Bukayo Saka makes decisions "not usual for his age" as he heaped praise on the young Arsenal star following his man-of-the-match performance at Southampton.

The 19-year-old scored one and assisted another as Arsenal made it five wins from six in the Premier League, moving them into the top half for the first time since mid-November.

Saka has scored four goals and registered two assists in that run, and Arteta says the youngster shows leadership qualities beyond his years.

Arteta said: "He's really humble, really respectful and at the same time has that character to demand the ball, to make decisions that are not very usual for his age. We need that leadership and he's gaining that with his attitude and his performances.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Arsenal's win at Southampton in the Premier League

"He's all the time asking to train more to improve in areas that he can do better. That was certainly one, producing the final bit in the box to score or assist. He's doing that much more often.

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"If he's able to do that with the intelligence that he has, with the work rate that he shows on the pitch and with the capacity that he has to understand the game in different positions, then he becomes a really different player."

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Arteta also told BT Sport: "He's been very consistent through the season, we play him in different positions and he is adapting well. His finishing, assisting, link-up play is good, it was a really strong performance today."

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Mikel Arteta congratulates Alexandre Lacazette at St Mary's 0:27
Mikel Arteta says an upturn in results has lifted morale in the Arsenal squad

Despite being in crisis before Christmas, Arsenal are now looking at challenging for European places, but Arteta says the club have "done nothing yet".

"We still have a lot to do, a lot to recover, a lot to improve still, but be humble, train good and prepare for the next game, because we haven't done anything," he told BT Sport.

"It's really tough to win here, they are a good side and they are on great form, people really struggle against them. We showed our intelligence and resilience in the team."

He later said in the post-match press conference: "I don't want to look at the table, I want to look at ourselves and how can we get better, the reason why we are performing better and winning more football matches and get that consistency that we've been lacking. Improve in many areas that we have to get better at and see where we get by doing that."

Arsenal's Bukayo Saka celebrates after scoring his side's second goal (AP)
Image: Arsenal's Saka has scored four goals and made two assists in his last six Premier League games

Arteta also defended his selection for Saturday's 1-0 defeat at St Mary's in the FA Cup fourth round, with Emile Smith Rowe, Saka, Alexandre Lacazette and Thomas Partey brought back into the starting XI on Tuesday night.

"We had five players that were not available to play [on Saturday], I want to make that clear.

"The ones that played today, they were to play some part of that game. So we expect them to play without any pre-season, 50 games every game at that age, I am sorry but it is impossible, and I am not going to do that with young players."

Smith Rowe went off with an injury in the second half on Tuesday, and Partey with suspected cramp; both will be assessed in the coming days.

On Smith Rowe, Arteta said: "Yeah well, he was injured for the game in the FA Cup so he wasn't available. And we knew that probably today he could not play the whole game. He had some muscular discomfort and he had to come off again."

Arteta: That was for Aubameyang

Arteta and some of Arsenal's players dedicated the victory to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who remains unavailable due to "personal family reasons".

"I love how they support each other and protect each other. Auba is having a difficult time, we're all behind him and this win is for him."

What's next?

Live Premier League

Live Premier League

Southampton now host Aston Villa on Saturday Night Football at 8pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League, before going to Man Utd on Tuesday in the Premier League at 8.15pm.

Arsenal host Manchester United on Saturday Night Football at 5.30pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League, before going to Wolves on Tuesday in the Premier League at 6pm.

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