Mikel Arteta has moved to calm the excitement surrounding Bukayo Saka after the 19-year-old delivered another eye-catching performance in Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Brighton.
Saka produced his second man-of-the-match demonstration in four days as Arsenal continued their 3-1 win over Chelsea on Boxing Day with a relentless victory on the South Coast.
The academy product, which scored Arsenal’s third goal against Chelsea, provided help to winner Alexandre Lacazette at Amex Stadium and caused trouble for Brighton throughout, further underscoring his status as one of the best young players in the country.
But Arteta is determined to avoid overloading Saka with expectations and says he must have space to continue his development.
“I would like everyone to be careful, leave him alone and let him evolve,” said the Arsenal manager.
“I think he has the right progression. I think he has the right people around him in his house, in his entourage.
“And he also has the right teammates to support him all the time, give him confidence and keep his feet on the ground.
“So I hope we can be the right coaches around him and the right club to see the player he can be in the future.”
Saka limped in the finals at Amex Stadium but Arteta doesn’t think his injury is serious. “He has taken on a tall order, but I hope he will be okay,” he said.
The Spaniard was also happy with the way the youngster recovered from a difficult first half.
“Today he had a tough game in the first half because we weren’t using certain moments to generate advantages for him and the other attacking players in the right way,” said Arteta.
“So the game gets really tough all the time, coming back on goal against a back-five in a low block.
“In the second half, when we started playing different balls and attacking differently, we found more freedom, more space and more ability to unblock situations and blocking.
“We created four or five big chances and he was involved in most of them.”
‘Lacazette stepped up in a difficult time’
Arteta praised goal scorer Lacazette, who found the net for the third game in a row barely 21 seconds after leaving the bench at Amex Stadium.
The Arsenal boss revealed the Frenchman was not fit enough to start the game due to a back problem and praised the attitude he displayed to help get the camp out of their rut .
“I think that’s what every manager dreams of, bringing in people from the bench and winning the game like he did tonight,” said Arteta.
“I think he has been in very good form the last few weeks. He has scored goals. He is full of confidence. Today he has a sore back so he couldn’t start the game. But he came and won the game for us, which is extremely important.
“We need great players and senior players to step in through these tough times and he sure does.
“The front players also need their teammates to support them and put them as often as possible in situations like he did today.
“But at the same time, they have to step up and create these opportunities themselves. I think Laca works very hard.
“Since I’ve been here, his job has never been a problem. His goal record could improve, but he’s improving because he’s so willing to do it for us too.”