Mikel Arteta praises ‘tremendous’ Bukayo Saka ahead of 200th Arsenal appearance

Ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Kenilworth Road on Tuesday, Mikel Arteta addressed reporters at London Colney. The Spaniard offered a number of injury updates, before touching on Bukayo Saka’s development, the title race and what to expect from Rob Edwards’ Luton Town.

Ben White is ‘in a good place’

As is customary in these pre-match press conferences, Arteta was asked for an update on any injuries within the Arsenal squad. ‘We assessed [Takehiro Tomiyasu] after the game,’ he informed reporters. ‘We took him off as a precaution so we’ll wait. Whether it’s useful to use him or not, we will decide tomorrow. He’s a strong boy and hopefully he’ll be fine.’

There’s positive news for England’s Ben White too, with the manager adding that ‘after his injury and the way we decided to manage his load, he’s feeling perfect and back to fitness. He played some minutes and he’s now in a good place.’

Bukayo Saka ‘hasn’t got any limits’

Arsenal’s last 14 goals have been netted by nine difficult goalscorers, which is a fact that Arteta finds to be incredibly reassuring. ‘It’s really good,’ he explained, ‘that means that the team has goals. They come from different places and that makes it more unpredictable and the players are eager to score as well. Last year we had something very similar to that, we shared the goals in a great way and we have to continue to do that.’

Bukayo Saka has been influential for the Gunners this season, netting eight goals and registering a further 11 assists in all competitions thus far. The Englishman is set to make his 200th senior appearance for the North London side against Luton Town, and Arteta was keen to pile on the praise for the youngster.

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‘That’s not bad at his age,’ he joked. ‘It’s gone really fast but it shows again the consistency and the availability that he has had over the last few years. It has been tremendous and the impact that he’s had in the team has been really positive.’

‘It’s like watching a kid raise, and get older, mature and evolve. And he still has the same humility and willingness to get better and better and get to know the people close to him in his life, and the impact they have on him. All the academy people who worked with him as well over the years to make him the player he is today, they have to take a huge compliment of who Bukayo is today. And then let him be. Bukayo is a special guy, we have him with us hopefully for many years to come.’

‘At the moment, he hasn’t got any limits and he wants more and the people around him want more. His teammates are having a better understanding of what he needs as well. He has coaches, staff and a club that wants to push him to become better. I think it’s a good context for him to keep growing.’

League table ‘does not reflect’ Luton’s ability

With Mikel Arteta set to venture to Kenilworth Road for the first time as Arsenal manager, the Spaniard was asked for his thoughts on the ground, which is renowned for a fiery atmosphere.

‘I would say [Kenilworth Road] is an inspiring place. I think what they’ve done is remarkable with what Rob [Edwards] did with the team last year, the way they did it and what they transmitted as a team. We are neighbours and we’re always very close to here so it’s just an amazing story. They fully deserve all the credit they are getting, from last year as well as the way they are playing this season. Some of the results that they have got and in the games that they’ve played, they’ve been extremely close so tomorrow we’re going to have a really intense and difficult match.’

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‘[The players] know [about the atmopshere]. We have already warned them, they know what to expect. They know about the atmosphere and they know about the access. They know everything, and especially they have to know about the team that they have to face tomorrow and the difficulties we are going to have to play against them, and as well what the opportunities are for us to win the game.’

‘It’s inspiring, and as well to play there is going to be something different, and we’ve already discussed that with the players. But really positive too, that’s the tradition of English football, our league. They haven’t been in the league for a long, long time and I think Arsenal hasn’t played against them for a long, long time, so it’s a good evening.’

Arteta was also enthusiastic when talking about his managerial counterpart, adding that ‘he is a great coach and a really special person as well. You can tell the way he coaches his team and the way his team behaves and I’m very happy for him and what he’s doing. We’ve stayed in touch because he was at Watford not long ago so we’ve been pretty close.’

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‘I think they are a really good team and probably the table does not reflect what they have done in many games. The way they have lost games or drew games as well in five minutes during the final stages of games. As I say, it probably doesn’t reflect that, but it’s a difficult game, that’s for sure.’