Bukayo Saka’s evolution as an essential Arsenal all-rounder in Mikel Arteta’s tactical plans

Arsenal continuing the positive momentum build with their wins over Liverpool [Community Shield], Fulham and West Ham [Premier League] was the most important when Mikel Arteta led the side to the King Power Stadium, and that’s exactly what they did.

Christian Fuchs’ own goal, thanks to the work done by Nicolas Pepe and Eddie Nketiah’s late finish helped secure the Gunners’ place in the Carabao Cup fourth round, where they face either Liverpool or Lincoln City, but it was another player that stood out on the night.

A constant threat throughout the game, Bukayo Saka was exceptional in his second start of the season. His first came in the win over West Ham where he was heavily involved in both goals but had a somewhat inconsistent display in regard to his overall performance.

That wasn’t the case away at Leicester City as he was by far Arsenal’s most impressive player from the first minute until the 86th when he was replaced by Hector Bellerin, who also impressed in his short time on the pitch.

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Assessing Saka’s performance as a whole, he excelled in a plethora of areas. When attacking from wide areas, he was effective and was just as sound defensively bar a misread of one long ball early on. What was most impressive, however, was what he brought to the left wing-back role in the way it has developed under Arteta.

Since moving to the back three after the restart, his most potent weapon in that role has been Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

As a right-footer, the 23-year-old’s natural inclination to drift into more central areas tied directly into how Arteta wanted to take advantage of these spaces when advancing down the left. In this role, Maitland-Niles excelled, creating strong connections with Kieran Tierney and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for their passing patterns to be as smooth as possible.

Bukayo Saka’s heatmap from Arsenal’s 2-0 win…