Gunners manager Mikel Arteta says Bukayo Saka’s emergence in recent years and, more lately, that of Gabriel Martinelli shows what an exciting place Arsenal is
And the family and friends with whom he will surround himself on his landmark birthday needn’t spend too much time worrying about what gift to get him, because what he really wants is not something their money can buy him.
“The perfect present would be a win over Manchester United,” said Saka. “I’ll just celebrate with my family and friends, nothing special. I’m looking forward to my 21st, for sure.”
While Saka is coming of age off the field, he is humble enough to know there is still plenty more football knowledge to absorb and he is determined not to rest on his laurels.
“I still have a long way to go in terms of my development and a lot to learn,” he added. “I’ve played some important matches and a lot of matches, which has accelerated my learning, but there’s still a lot more to learn.”
Another game against United will only add to his experience, and Saka said: “Beating United would be a very big thing because they are a quality team and in good form right now. If we can go there and win it will give us a lot of confidence going forward.
“It’s a special rivalry. I’ve seen the games from before, with the big tackles and the fighting. In games like this, it has to be a balance between tactics and passion.
“Passion is really important – you can’t let the other team have more than you because then things get difficult. We’re in a good place right now. The next step for us is to try to bring some trophies, win more big games and play at the highest level.”
Boss Mikel Arteta says Saka’s emergence in recent years and, more lately, that of Gabriel Martinelli shows what an exciting place Arsenal is.
He said: “It’s really rare what they’re doing at a big, big club. But we have special talents, special people, and a club that is willing to promote talent and kids and players from our academy, and you can see the results of it.”
Martinelli, in particular, has been a revelation this season.
Arteta added: “His consistency is down to him. When he wasn’t playing he was all the time in my office — he was just a sad boy at the time — and every time showing me on the pitch how wrong I was.
“And the moment we agreed he was ready to do it, the way he has improved, the way he’s helping the team, and the room for improvement he still has, it’s phenomenal. So down to him.
“It’s just a joy to watch the freedom and personality he plays with.”