Mikel Arteta has given a brief glimpse into Bukayo Saka’s future role at Arsenal.
The 18-year-old’s best position has been a source of some contention since an extended run in the team, totalling 14 starts from 15 games, resulted in a meteoric rise to the headlines as one of the Premier League’s top young prospects.
Saka looks set for different role as Premier League return draws closer
Initially deployed at left-back to accommodate injuries to Sead Kolasinac and summer signing Kieran Tierney, Saka’s attacking attributes have sparked debate over whether his future role could see him deployed further upfield as a left winger.
Indeed, following Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Newcastle United back in February, the Englishman admitted his desire to play in a more forward role: “I feel like my dream was always to be a winger, to affect games, score goals and get assists.”
Fulfilling a role for his manager when the team needed him, Saka has put in a series of top performances at left-back, so much so that Arteta warned Kieran Tierney that upon his return from injury, he would have to fight for his starting role.
However, given the recent pause of football amid the coronavirus pandemic, Arsenal are among several teams to benefit from the chance to give players on the injury table necessary time to recuperate and return to action ahead of the Premier League’s return, which looks set to take place on June 17th as the Gunners face current holders Manchester City.
Arteta hints at attacking switch in training
With a fully fit squad, Arteta will have the ability to reassess where Saka’s best position lies.
The Spaniard appeared to give an insight into his future planning during a group training session at London Colney last week, when he split his squad by positions, identifying defensively minded players from those who are more attacking.
While Ainsley Maitland-Niles was included in the bundle of full-backs sent for work with his defensive teammates, Saka instead trained with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and winger Reiss Nelson.
Arteta’s decision could prove to be an indication that he views Saka as more of an attacking option, hoping to improve the 18-year-old’s skillset and build upon his tally of two goals and five assists when playing as a winger.
Of course, this hinges on Arsenal’s ability to tie the youngster down to a new deal in north London, with his current contract set to expire in June 2021. The current silence over a contract extension will have made the club’s fans nervous over the situation, with interest rife over possible suitors should he eye a fresh start elsewhere.