The 18-year-old is enjoying an impressive rise to prominence and he was effective again on Thursday, pleasing his coach and fellow player
Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno applauded Bukayo Saka for his decisive assist in Thursday’s 1-0 Europa League win at Olympiacos, lauding the “outstanding” 18-year-old as Mikel Arteta commended his “courage”.
Saka is enjoying a breakout season with the Gunners, making his 25th appearance of the campaign as Arsenal took charge of their Europa League last-32 tie.
The teenager, who has been playing out of position at left-back recently, laid on the crucial pass from which Alexandre Lacazette netted the winning goal in Piraeus.
That was his ninth assist of the season across all competitions and his fifth in the Europa League, the most of anyone in the competition.
Saka’s performances recently have attracted a lot of praise, and Leno was similarly impressed with him on Thursday.
“Bukayo is an outstanding player and hopefully he stays very long at Arsenal,” Leno told BT Sport.
“He’s very important and I think today his cross was very good for Laca [Lacazette] to score. We are happy we now have the advantage, the away goal, and at home we want to beat them again and go to the next round.”
What makes Saka’s rapid progression even more impressive is the fact he has been asked to take up a more defensive position than before, and Arteta believes he has reacted promisingly to the alteration.
“We try to put him in a position where we can surround him with the right players and in the right areas, as he’s not a full-back,” Arteta added to BT Sport.
“He’s responding well and he has a lot of courage to make decisions in the final third, the most opportunities we created was on his side again and I’m very pleased with his performances.”
Backup goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez featured between the posts for Arsenal during the Europa League group stage, but Leno was chosen on Thursday in a move that suggests the German will be first-choice in both Europe and the Premier League.
Leno is grateful for Arteta’s faith.
“I want to play all the games,” he said. “I, and we, take this competition seriously because it’s another chance for a trophy and to qualify for the Champions League.
“So, I want to play all these games and I’m happy the manager made the decision I play the Premier League games and Europa League games as well.”