Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has admitted that young starlet Bukayo Saka is currently ‘really fatigued’, making the winger’s two assists and overall contribution in Thursday night’s 3-2 Europa League win over Benfica to progress to the last 16 even more impressive.
Saka laid on the first Arsenal goal of the night for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, before also crossing for the same player to win the game and the tie just a few minutes from full-time. Without that final goal, the Gunners would have been knocked out on away goals.
“It is [nerves of steel], and as well because he’s really fatigued. He’s played a lot of minutes and he hasn’t had much rest,” Arteta reflected on Saka’s performance, via Arsenal.com.
“We asked him to go again and produce this moment, and the boy has done it against a really difficult formation with the way they were so deep and there were very small spaces, but he’s found a way to do it again.”
Saka has been such an important player for Arsenal in recent weeks, and the club’s mini-revival since Christmas began as soon as he was consistently deployed at the top end of the pitch on the right flank where he can be most effective, having previously been a utility player.
Aubameyang is also making an important impact for Arsenal. The club captain has struggled for form this season and has also had to deal with personal problems off the pitch. But his brace was vital, while he also netted a hat-trick in the recent Premier League win over Leeds.
“I completely trust him because we produced the chances and you know with Auba that when he has chances, he is going to score goals,” Arteta said.
“The last few days after the game in Rome against [Benfica], he missed three opportunities that are normally three goals for him, and he needed to react and it's great to see that the way he reacted is by being upset and trying to be better and not just feeling sad for himself in this moment.”