Football Features

The player who represents Arsenal ‘values’ most? Arteta’s favourite helps keep top-four hopes alive with win at Wolves

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 19:50, 4 July 2020

Arsenal produced another solid away performance in the Premier League as they ran out 2-0 winners at Wolves.

The result now leaves them three points behind the West Midlands club and, more importantly, just a further three away from Manchester United, who are in fourth. Arsenal’s chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League still look slim, but as United and Chelsea are still to play each other it is not as if all hope is lost.

Today against Wolves, Mikel Arteta’s men had to ride out an early wave of pressure from the hosts but struck at key moments in either half through Alexandre Lacazette and teenage sensation Bukayo Saka, who gave the Gunners a half-time lead.

It was another game Saka demonstrated why many in north London are high on his talent, most notably his boss.

Multifunctional

Today’s match marked the 27th time, across four different competitions, Saka began a game for Arsenal this season. It also happened to see him in yet another different role. In those previous outings the England under-19 international would play in four respective positions; nominally a left winger, he’s been predominantly used at left-back though also at times deployed behind the centre-forward or in midfield.

His natural exuberance has been a key factor behind this early success. Yet to leave his teenage years behind, Saka has already created no fewer than 11 goals and Molineux — where he started on the right flank inside a 3-4-3 — saw the 18-year-old register a fourth goal in a Gunners jersey with a sweet first-time volley with his left foot on the stroke of half-time. Interestingly, all of these strikes have come away from home, with this latest effort also happening to be his first in the Premier League.

All-round work

It wasn’t just in front of goal where Saka impressed. Since his appointment, Mikel Arteta has attempted to make the north London giants a cohesive unit where every player needs to contribute at both ends of the field. This vision understandably remains a work in progress. Pep Guardiola’s former right-hand man is still to have a pre-season with his charges. But that being said, it’s clear an impressionable and gifted player like Saka has bought into his method. So, it doesn’t come as any surprise to find out that no Arsenal player has played in more games under Arteta than him (13) in the Premier League and only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Granit Xhaka enjoyed more minutes.

“He is the player that represents every value that this football club stands for,” Arteta said recently after Arsenal’s 4-0 win against Norwich. The discipline he showed as Wolves continually raised the pressure was admirable. He never shirked away from his defensive responsibilities in the 76 minutes he played, further emphasising the idea of Arsenal’s attack being their first line of defence, Saka successfully won possession cleanly in each of his three attempted tackles as well as the only aerial duel he contested. It was a performance deserving of spectators, and despite not getting on the ball as much as his teammates, Saka seldom wasted possession, a key trait to have in a tough away match.

Future is bright

Saka couldn’t have picked the perfect time to score his first league goal. Earlier in the week, he’d pen a new long term deal — alongside fellow teen Gabriel Martinelli — keeping him at the club he’s always called home. It remains to be seen how far Arteta’s revolution takes the Gunners, but early signs are promising. Saka undoubtedly will play a key role as he continues to develop. The hard work he’s put in has taken him this far and becoming a guaranteed starter must be his next goal. Chances of that looks promising.

Elsewhere in the Premier League this afternoon:

Norwich 0-1 Brighton & Hove Albion: Leandro Trossard scored the game’s only goal as Daniel Farke’s men edge closer to relegation.

Leicester City 2-0 Crystal Palace: Heading towards stalemate at half-time, the Foxes came alive following the break with Jamie Vardy helping himself to a brace, after Kelechi Iheanacho broke the deadlock.

Man Utd 5-2 Bournemouth: A seven-goal thriller at Old Trafford which saw teenage forward Mason Greenwood score twice for the hosts. Junior Stanislas had initially put Bournemouth in front. Marcus Rashford and Joshua King both scored from the spot whilst Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes also found the net.