Mikel Arteta has admitted that he initially struggled to find Bukayo Saka’s best role at Arsenal and says “It took me a while to figure him out”.
Saka established himself as a regular in the Gunners first team under Unai Emery after graduating from the academy in 2018.
Arteta has helped the 19-year-old take his game to even greater heights since replacing Emery in the managerial hot-seat, but the Spaniard concedes that he wasn’t sure how best to utilise his talents at first.
Arteta, who signed a three-and-a-half-year contract as Arsenal’s new manager in December 2019, has used Saka in a variety of different positions, including as a left-back, left-winger, central midfielder and right-winger in a bid to gauge where he is most effective.
“It took me a while to figure him out,” the Arsenal boss told Sky Sports. “That’s why I tried to play him in different positions, to see how he reacted.
“I wanted to test his character as well because he was playing as a left-back and I know it wasn’t his ideal position but he had to go through that period.”
Asked what makes Saka so unique, Arteta responded: “Intelligence. We talk about physicality, we talk about spirit, we talk about technique. But the brain is the one that makes all the decisions.
“‘B’ makes a lot of good decisions because he is such an intelligent player who can read situations. And after that, of course, he has the ability to execute them the right way and that’s obviously a big quality.”
Saka was handed a bumper new four-year contract at the Emirates last July after a bright start to life under Arteta, who has granted the teenager an even more prominent role during his first full season in charge at Arsenal.
The England international has already racked up 38 appearances across all competitions for the Gunners in 2020-21, scoring seven goals, including a fine solo effort in a 4-0 rout of Slavia Prague in the Europa League quarter-finals on Thursday.