Bukayo Saka’s meteoric rise in the past 18 months has been a huge bright spark in a turbulent period for Arsenal, with the teenager earning his stripes under Unai Emery and becoming a star since Mikel Arteta’s reign began.
On the field and off it, the England international is a vital cog in the Gunners machine – with faith shown in the 19-year-old by handing him the iconic number seven shirt and a lucrative long-term contract.
Saka’s relationship with fellow Hale End graduate Emile Smith Rowe, who has earned his breakthrough in the side this term, provides further room for encouragement.
One major concern, however, is the risk of burnout, something which was addressed by Arteta prior to Sunday’s defeat against Manchester City.
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“I think we have to protect him and keep the extractions where they should be, but I’m not going to put a brake on his development or how much he can do week in, week out. We have to support him and give him the best possible advice all the time, and then manage his minutes so he can maintain this level,” he told reporters.
“It is (difficult) at the moment because he’s been a real threat. He’s involved in a lot of goals all the time and his consistent performances make him a starter obviously. So it’s a fine balance, but at the same time he’s 19 years old and we have to protect him.”
It’s clear that Arteta knows Saka must be carefully managed and his importance cannot be ignored, though the stats raise concerns on Arsenal’s reliance on Saka, regardless of how exciting they are for a player of his age.
This season, Saka has contributed five goals and two assists in the Premier League, numbers that should improve further as he develops. Throw in the seven times he’s been involved in the build-up to goals and the figure of contributions…