Bukayo Saka at centre of Arsenal’s revival under Mikel Arteta... and it’s not a surprise

Simon Collings
·3-min read

We are beginning to run out of superlatives for Bukayo Saka, particularly after this performance in Arsenal’s win over Southampton.

The teenager was once again at the heart of another Arsenal victory, scoring a goal and setting up another as they claimed a 3-1 victory.

And perhaps the biggest compliment you can pay to Saka is that it was not a shock. We’ve come to expect this from the forward now, who has become the talisman of this Arsenal revival.

Last season it was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang driving the team forward, but right now Saka is the main man and he seems to be relishing the role.

He took his goal here with aplomb, rounding Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy and slotting home after Granit Xhaka had played him in.

Then, for Arsenal’s third, he turned provided as he hit a brilliant first-time cross - with his wrong foot - into Alexandre Lacazette to score.

Both those actions were moments of real quality from Saka, who now has four goals in his last eight games.

He has been at the centre of Arsenal’s revival under Mikel Arteta and sometimes it is crazy to remember Saka is still just 19. The forward is developing at an alarming rate and he shows no signs of slowing day.

Pool via REUTERS
Pool via REUTERS

Cedric steps up in Tierney’s absence

Earlier this month, when Kieran Tierney had been missing, it had caused panic stations among Arsenal fans. Ainsley Maitland-Niles came in for the Scot and he struggled against Crystal Palace, which highlighted the Gunners’ apparent lack of depth at left-back.

That, however, now seems like a thing of the past after this win here in Southampton. Cedric Soares filled in at left-back and shone. The Portugal international was excellent, getting forward whenever he could and causing problems.

Every attack seemed to involve Cedric, but he was most impressive for Arsenal’s third goal. Picking the ball up out left, he hit a brilliant diagonal ball to Saka - who in turn setup Lacazette to score.

Arsenal are in the market for a left-back, and they do need one, but Cedric has shown he could be handy deputy until the summer. Arsenal do not need to panic and bring someone in. Cedric looks capable of holding the fort until then.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Partey and Smith Rowe limping off only sour note

There were few negatives for Arteta to moan at from this victory over Southampton. He perhaps will have been unhappy with Saints’ goal, which came after Stuart Armstrong was able to lose his marker in the box from a corner.

But Arsenal hit back swiftly, equalising through Nicolas Pepe, and in the end they deserved this victory. They executed Arteta’s plan, exposing Southampton’s deputy full-backs - who couldn’t recreate what Kyle Walker-Peters and Ryan Bertrand offer.

The only dampener was the sight of Emile Smith Rowe and Thomas Partey limping off. Both players have been good in recent weeks and Arsenal will not want them to be out for long - particularly with a clash against Manchester United coming this weekend.