Soccer

Arsenal concerns over Bukayo Saka explained after shining in vital Tottenham win

Arsenal: Arteta says Saka 'always willing to learn'

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Arsenal were once concerned over whether Bukayo Saka would make the grade at the Emirates Stadium, it has been claimed. The teenager has been a shining light amid a difficult season for Mikel Arteta’s side. And he impressed on Sunday as Tottenham were beaten 2-1 in the north London derby.

Arsenal have endured a problematic campaign.

Even after their victory over Tottenham they sit 10th in the Premier League table, sandwiched between Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.

But while Arteta’s side have struggled as a whole, Saka has been one of the best things about their season.

The 19-year-old has scored five goals from 24 Premier League matches this term, while also registering two assists.

He recently impressed against Tottenham on Sunday, helping the Gunners to victory after they’d previously gone a goal down against Jose Mourinho’s team.

And, now, former Arsenal academy manager Andries Jonker has opened up on the 19-year-old – admitting he was always talented right from the off.

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“I went with him to Florida when he was an Under-14 player, to play in a tournament,” Jonker told the Telegraph.

“He was a huge kid. Stronger and faster than anybody else. He hit the ball through the net.”

He then opened up on concerns Arsenal had over Saka, with the club being unsure whether he harnessed the talent to become a top asset for the club.

The former Gunners chief continued: “Nobody could answer that. There was no doubt about his quality, it was just: why is he so good?

“It is impossible to judge a kid if he is so much stronger and faster than the other children.

“The question was: is this physical power, or is the ability or talent to become a really good player?”

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Jonker also revealed how keeping hold of Reiss Nelson during a time where the Arsenal star was being hunted by other clubs have helped Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.

“We created a climate where those boys felt comfortable,” he said.

“They did not want to leave. They knew we trusted them.

“When the other boys found out Reiss was going to stay, that Emile was going to stay, that Bukayo was going to stay, it meant for them that they could stay.

“Reiss told me when he was a little boy that he only had one dream. He wanted to play at the Emirates.

“Those boys eat, drink and sleep Arsenal and they have one goal: to be successful with Arsenal.”

Meanwhile, Saka was forced out of the victory against Tottenham with a hamstring injury – giving Arteta a problem in the process.

And Arteta admitted the club were unsure over how long he’d be absent for.

Freddie Ljungberg waxed lyrical over Saka while doing punditry for Sky Sports over the weekend, opening up his outstanding rise.

“He’s been with Arsenal his whole life, he loves the club, he knows what it means,” Ljungberg said.

“I’m so happy every time he does well because he deserves it, he works so hard every day.

“I think he was 15 when I started coaching him. It’s been a pleasure. He came and asked me questions all the time, if there was something he knows that he can’t really do, he wouldn’t be scared or shy away from it, whereas some players do.

“He’d come and practice that little bit extra, ‘Can you show me some clips of what I’m doing wrong?’ and stuff like that. He’s very, very clever.

“He trains really well. I had this chat with him when he was really young and told him that’s what he needed to do to become a top player.

“Since that day, he’s worked so hard, you almost have to tell him to calm down a little bit if we have a game. Pleasure to be the coach of a player like that.”

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