Why Mikel Arteta was so angry with Bukayo Saka as Arsenal edge win over plucky West Brom

Leaking goals

There are a few aspects of Arsenal’s play that have improved under Mikel Arteta and it can be argued that the Gunners are more solid defensively than previous years.

However, between the sticks there have been high profile errors made by Bernd Leno this season and there are question marks over the future of the German international going into the summer transfer window.

With just two clean sheets in their last 14 Premier League matches, there is a clear link between conceding sloppy goals and Arsenal’s position in the league table.

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And it’s something that will need to improve going into next season, with Arteta’s side failing to keep a clean sheet in their last seven league matches at Emirates Stadium.

Experienced heads

Gabriel Magahales’ first season in English football started so brightly but ended in a similar underwhelming fashion to Arsenal’s campaign.

The 23-year-old Brazilian was surprisingly dropped in favour of Pablo Mari for the Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal, but slotted back in alongside Rob Holding for this one.

Holding, who captained an Arsenal side with skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang an unused substitute, gave the £25million defender clear instructions throughout the game as he showcased his leadership skills.

Mohamed Elneny also pointed at where Gabriel should be positioned during a West Brom attack, with both the Egyptian midfielder and Holding encouraging their teammate as the Baggies looked to exploit the Arsenal defence.

Arteta’s demands

Bukayo Saka has won many admirers this season as he continues to establish himself as one of the most exciting youngsters in European football.

He started at left-back on Sunday evening and provided an incline as to why it may have been a good idea for the England starlet to feature there when Granit Xhaka pulled out injured before kick-off.

It’s not an unfamiliar position to Saka who has filled in there before but manager Mikel Arteta continued to issue instructions from the sidelines as he made clear demands of the 19-year-old.

Bukayo Saka put in a fine display for Arsenal against West Brom in the Premier League at the Emirates (Photo by Frank Augstein - Pool/Getty Images)
Bukayo Saka put in a fine display for Arsenal against West Brom in the Premier League at the Emirates (Photo by Frank Augstein – Pool/Getty Images)

‘B, second ball – go!’ said Arteta as he encouraged Saka to make an overlapping run to help his teammates on the attack.

And Saka’s rustiness in the position irked Arteta in the first half as he screamed towards the youngster ‘B, wider! Not wide enough!’ with the Hale End academy graduate adopting a more central position than his manager had wanted.

In the end, Saka listened clearly to his manager’s instructions and took them on board as he put in another superb performance on the left hand side for the Gunners.

Pepe’s improved numbers

Nicolas Pepe has arguably produced his best performances for Arsenal this season as he looks to further assert himself in English football.

The Ivorian winger has now scored 11 Premier League goals, all against different opposition teams, and is the only player to produce double figures for goals and assists in the Europa League this campaign.

There are times where he can frustrate – especially when he loses possession or fails to impact games in the way that is expected, but he was excellent against West Brom and scored an equally sumptuous goal to match.

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