Mikel Arteta says he will go onto the pitch if he has to ensure Bukayo Saka steps up to take Arsenal’s next penalty.
The 21-year-old missed from the spot against West Ham on Sunday, with his side surrendering their 2-1 advantage minutes later to leave the London Stadium with just a point.
Saka has enjoyed a superb season in north London, registering 12 goals and ten assists in 31 Premier League appearances, and is seen by many to be in contention for the Premier League Player of the Year award.
Even if Saka doesn’t win the main prize, there’s every chance that he’ll scoop the Young Player of the Year, such has been the nature of his performances for Arsenal.
The winger is no stranger to penalty disappointment, having missed in England’s shootout defeat to Italy in the final of Euro 2020, but Saka’s mental strength and ability to overcome adversity has shone through in abundance.
Saka apologised on social media in the aftermath of Sunday’s miss, but his manager has put faith in him to bounce back from the disappointment – reaffirming the support he has from everyone at Arsenal and the fact that he’ll remain the club’s penalty taker.
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“He loves responsibility but he puts a lot on his shoulders as well”, Arteta said, ahead of Friday’s game against Southampton. “Again, if he had any doubt about how much people love him, respect him and admire him at the club I think he had a very overwhelming reaction from everyone in the building and the club.
“In the end I think it can be something very positive that can give him a big lift because everyone acted in an unbelievable way towards him because he deserves it because of the way he is.
On whether Saka will continue to take penalties, Arteta confirmed: “Yes. If not, I will go on the pitch and throw him the ball to make sure he takes the next one.”
Arsenal’s season-long momentum may have taken a hit against West Ham and against Liverpool the week before, but they remain in pole position to win a first Premier League title in 19 years. Avoid defeat against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium and Arteta’s side have their destiny in their own hands.
On this edition of The Chronicles of a Gooner, part of the 90min podcast network, Harry Symeou discusses the recent links to Southampton’s Romeo Lavia and the latest on William Saliba’s fitness.
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