EPL

Arteta hails Arsenal goal aces Saka and Odegaard after win at Watford

By Sports Desk March 06, 2022

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta hailed Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard's quality after both scored in a thrilling 3-2 win at Watford.

Saka and Odegaard netted terrific first-half goals before Gabriel Martinelli added a third after the break, although replies from Watford's Cucho Hernandez and Moussa Sissoko ensured a nervy ending for the Gunners.

Arsenal, who are chasing a first top-four finish since 2016, have won four consecutive Premier League games, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Saka and Odegaard, who combined for the Norwegian's opener.

Saka has now posted 13 goal contributions in the Premier League this season (eight goals and five assists). Among players aged 21 and younger in the five big European leagues, only Bayer Leverkusen's Florian Wirtz, with 17, has more than the England man.

Although Arteta was frustrated with Arsenal's defensive lapses at Vicarage Road, he was keen to highlight how the duo's understanding has impacted the Gunners' attacking displays.

"We were really good going forward, and we had all the right intention and the energy to do it," Arteta said. "We scored three magnificent goals, but we didn't have the same energy and commitment defensively. When that happens, you're going to suffer."

Arteta is impressed by how Arsenal are moving the ball and finding reliable links between key personnel.

He said: "The speed of the movement, the timing of it is much better, the position that we get [into], the threat and the sense of having the capacity to create the chances that we have done is much better, and we have to keep developing that."

Arteta also highlighted Saka's penalty shootout miss in the Euro 2020 final last July as a key moment in the winger's development, as the England star continued his fine campaign with a superb strike against the Hornets.

"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. Then it's about leaving him that space [to develop]. What he is already doing is phenomenal and he needs that room, you know? Don't read too much, do what you do."

Saka, along with team-mates Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe, is one of three Gunners players aged 21 or younger to have hit five or more Premier League goals this campaign.

That is a single-season feat for a team which has only been accomplished by three others in the competition's history: Chelsea in 2019-20, Leeds United in 1998-99, and Manchester United in 1995-96.

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