Mikel Arteta has hailed Bukayo Saka’s ability to rebound from his penalty miss in the Euro 2020 final, claiming the event was a huge turning point for his career.
Saka missed the decisive penalty in England’s shoot-out defeat to Italy last summer, after which he was hounded by some horrible racist abuse on social media.
In response to that abuse, many fans spoke out in support of Saka and fellow targets Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford, standing alongside the trio and backing them to remain top players for years to come.
In Saka’s case, he has elevated his game to new levels this season, blossoming into a genuine Premier League star, and after watching him play a key role in Arsenal’s 3-2 victory over Watford on Sunday, Arteta claimed the penalty miss may have actually been a good thing.
“I think Bukayo had an experience in the summer that not a lot of players would ever have and I think it was great for his career because the football world showed how much they like him and how much they respect him,” Arteta said.
“I think that was a big boost for him to realise in difficult moments that people are going to give him support, and the club did exactly the same as his teammates.
“Then it’s about giving him that space. What he is already doing is phenomenal and he needs that room. Don’t read too much, do what you do.
“Football is his priority in life and you can see that every day in training and he needs to continue to behave and live the way that he is doing.”
When asked directly if he thinks Saka is better for the experience, Arteta said: “I think so.
“I think experiences like that mark your career. And what you learn from those difficult moments is much more probably than if you had scored that goal.”