Arteta hails Saka's maturity after scoring penalty at Chelsea
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Former Arsenal left-back Gael Clichy says Mikel Arteta should not be relying on youngsters Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe as much as he is. Saka and Smith Rowe are Arsenal’s leading goalscorers in the Premier League this season with 11 and 10 goals to their names respectively.
But Clichy thinks Arteta needs his more senior players to stand up and be counted. Saka doesn’t turn 21 until September, with Smith Rowe 22 in late July.
Arsenal are currently fourth in the Premier League table and are well placed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time since 2016. But Clichy, who spent eight years as a player in north London, says he has held fear at some points this season that relying on the two England stars could come back to bite his old team.
He told talkSPORT: “I was a little bit scared a few months ago, because those two players were actually carrying the team. It’s great to see, because they’re from the academy, and we don’t need to talk about the talent, because it’s clear to see.
“But sometimes it can be a little bit difficult and tricky because you’re asking them to do so much at such a young age. It shouldn’t be like this.
“They should have players around them, taking responsibility, making sure the team is winning points. They should just be there to improve, express themselves and show how good they are.
“They were doing this on top of performing like the big shots of the team. Arsenal is trying to rebuild and the best way to rebuild a club is by using academy players.
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“They’re lucky because they have so much talent. I’m really happy for the players and the club – because if they manage those two players well, they could go a long way.”
Arsenal beat Manchester United 3-1 on Saturday to back up their 4-2 win at Chelsea last Wednesday. And Clichy is desperate to see the Gunners back in Europe’s elite club competition next season.
He added: “I really like the way they’re playing. From the beginning, I was sure Arteta was going to do a good job, given time.
“I think he’s been given the time and sufficient financial back-up to do so. That game against Man United was an important one.
“Are they the favourites for the top-four? Yes – because of the form, the way they play and the exciting talent they have.
“But, of course, we know you can win against United, put yourself in a great situation, lose the next game, and then it’s all over again. I would like to see them in the top-four, I think it’s a club that deserves that.
“They’ve struggled to maintain form since [Arsene] Wenger left, but this year they’re doing really good.”
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