The Spanish head coach says he tried the teenager in a number of different positions in order to “test his character”
Mikel Arteta has admitted that he initially struggled to find Bukayo Saka’s best role at Arsenal and says “It took me a while to figure him out”.
Saka established himself as a regular in the Gunners first team under Unai Emery after graduating from the academy in 2018.
Arteta has helped the 19-year-old take his game to even greater heights since replacing Emery in the managerial hot-seat, but the Spaniard concedes that he wasn’t sure how best to utilise his talents at first.
What’s been said?
Arteta, who signed a three-and-a-half-year contract as Arsenal’s new manager in December 2019, has used Saka in a variety of different positions, including as a left-back, left-winger, central midfielder and right-winger in a bid to gauge where he is most effective.
“It took me a while to figure him out,” the Arsenal boss told Sky Sports. “That’s why I tried to play him in different positions, to see how he reacted.
“I wanted to test his character as well because he was playing as a left-back and I know it wasn’t his ideal position but he had to go through that period.”
Asked what makes Saka so unique, Arteta responded: “Intelligence. We talk about physicality, we talk about spirit, we talk about technique. But the brain is the one that makes all the decisions.
“‘B’ makes a lot of good decisions because he is such an intelligent player who can read situations. And after that, of course, he has the ability to execute them the right way and that’s obviously a big quality.”
How has Saka performed for Arsenal this term?
Saka was handed a bumper new four-year contract at the Emirates last July after a bright start to life under Arteta, who has granted the teenager an even more prominent role during his first full season in charge at Arsenal.
The England international has already racked up 38 appearances across all competitions for the Gunners in 2020-21, scoring seven goals, including a fine solo effort in a 4-0 rout of Slavia Prague in the Europa League quarter-finals on Thursday.
Arteta added on the improvements Saka has made in the final third: “We’ve seen how he can affect the game more and be a real threat.
“He’s got the quality to decide a football match and when you have that, you need to try to get the right position for him to be decisive as much as possible because then the team will be closer to winning more football matches.”
Saka will likely have another chance to shine when Arsenal welcome Fulham to the Emirates for a London derby encounter on Sunday, which comes five days before their next scheduled home game against Everton.