Mikel Arteta has supported Bukayo Saka to handle the press this season, following his behavior and achievements over the past year that have earned the 19-year-old “respect and admiration” from Arsenal and England fans.
Saka made himself extremely proud during the 2020/21 campaign, earning Gunners players of the season and hitting Gareth Southgate’s start XI at Euro 2020.
The 19-year-old behaved delightfully throughout the tournament, but after missing England’s last place kick in his penalty shootout loss to Italy in the final, he suffered racist abuse online. After coming out with his head held high and claiming that “love always wins”, Arteta said that the teenager earned a bigger trophy than the European Championships.
Bukayo Saka: “By driving out hatred by being kind to each other, we will win.
“Love always wins.”
Goal (@goal) July 15, 2021
“Obviously he had some tough days after what happened in the final but I think you have to look at the whole picture,” said Arteta, quoted by The Mirror. “This child, 19 years old, has played almost every game in the Premier League. He was our season player, I think he has earned the respect and admiration of everyone in the football club.
“But not only that, he has gone to an international stage, he started the European competition with an injury and yet he has managed to be in start XI,” he continued. “He reached the final and he could not lift that trophy but I think he has a much bigger trophy than that, and that is that now he really knows that in good and bad moments, everyone in the club, all the Arsenal fans and all the English the hell is right behind him.
“He has earned it with his behavior, his talent and how he is. It will be there for the rest of his life. A trophy is there in the closet and then you have to be the man in the next. But what he has achieved and how he has uniting people is very powerful and he should be really, really proud of it. “
Mikel Arteta with Bukayo Saka / Michael Steele / Getty Images
Arteta has given Saka the mandate to be the “man” next term, as Arsenal look set to significantly improve on an overwhelming campaign last time out. The Gunners finished the Premier League campaign in eighth place and completely missed European football.
“The maturity he has shown at his age is quite special, I have not seen many of them – and now he will have to deal with other things next year, it will be about expectations,” said Arteta.
“Can he do it again? Can he raise his stakes again, can he improve, can he continue to make better decisions, be more consistent, start winning more regularly? That is what he needs to do at this very early stage in his career. “