Mikel Arteta has said that Kieran Tierney is ‘going to bring something special’ to Arsenal, but what does that mean for Bukayo Saka?
We signed the Scottish defender from Celtic last summer, knowing that the left-back was recovering from an injury, but just as Tierney was getting a run of games together he fell foul of injury once more.
In his absence however, temporary boss Freddie Ljungberg opted to utilise Saka as a makeshift left-back, and it worked a treat. The 18 year-old has been growing into the role under new coach Arteta also, but it looks as though he may well have to make way for the returning Tierney when football resumes.
Mikel has praised the mentality of the young Scot, whilst urging him to challenge himself.
The Spaniard said: ‘I’m really looking forward to working with him and giving him the opportunity to play.’
‘His attitude, his commitment, his will; it’s incredible. I think he’s going to bring something special to us. It’s a shame (Tierney’s injury), but it’s part of his development.
‘In your career, you go through these moments, and I challenged Kieran to say, “Kieran, how are you going to react to that?”
‘You cannot feel sorry for yourself that this happened. Okay, the level of expectation now is a bit higher, you have to deal with it.
‘You are playing with a top club, top expectation… deal with it.
‘You have everything to be successful here, you have the best possible attitude that I know from a player, go and lead your profession and enjoy it, and that’s it.’
We have a wealth of talent in our squad, with a vast amount of potential to do something special, but Arteta has a job to keep them all happy, whilst trying to get the best out of them.
One of our youngest and rawest talents is Bukayo Saka. The 18 year-old has been amongst our best players this term, and while he has been enjoying first-team football for much of the campaign, he has so far refused our initial offer of a new contract.
Saka has just over 12 months remaining on his current deal, which is no doubt a huge issue as we near the summer transfer window, and while the negotiations have remained private, you can imagine the issues which may have come up.
The obvious issue could be the wage being offered, especially given how important the youngster has been to our first-team, although you would think that if money was a huge factor, he would not have walked away from the initial negotiations without an increase to his £3,000 per week wages.
Alternatively, Saka could possibly have reservations about his place in the first-team once Tierney returns, or may see an issue with returning to his favoured role with Nicolas Pepe, Gabriel Martinelli, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Eddie Nketiah all vying for action also.
Personally the youngster is a gem of a player who simply needs to be told whatever he needs to hear to get him to sign a new deal. The only problem with giving him too important a role in attack is that while he has shown that he is well up to the challenge, and is regularly credited with assists due to his fine play, he is still a raw talent, as highlighted by his lack of composure when in goalscoring areas.
It could click in no time at all, but currently the left-back role has limited his time in the box in such areas, which has highlighted his ability to play out wide, but Tierney returning to the first-team fold may well see Saka find himself benched in some key games.
Overall Tierney’s return could well open the door for Saka to return to his favoured role in a more advanced position, which will hopefully be the perfect medicine to convince the youngster to sign on the dotted line, but only time will tell.
Has Saka earned the right to be considered a first-team player with everyone fit? Will he have trouble returning to the wings this season? Am I harsh to point out his lack of composure in front of goal?