Arsenal have a new Robert Pires in ‘relentless’ Bukayo Saka for Arteta

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta reviews the Crystal Palace win

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Mikel Arteta has been told that one of his main players, in Bukayo Saka, is reminiscent of one of the Arsenal invincibles in Robert Pires. The French winger spent six years at the Gunners, during which he was one of the stars under Arsene Wenger as they went a whole season unbeaten and became Premier League champions in 2003/04.

Pires dazzled with his fancy footwork on the left wing while also chipping in with an impressive goal tally – 62 in six seasons. However, another winger at the Emirates has been taking the recent plaudits and Saka has been likened to Pires in a glowing comparison.

Richards was discussing the top 10 French players of the Premier League era with Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer, as the former Manchester City man put Thierry Henry in first and Patrick Vieira second, also naming Pires in seventh place.

“He reminds me of Saka,” the BBC pundit told the rest of the Match of the Day Top Tens. “The way he… On the other side, the way you think he’s not going to beat you and then he just drops the shoulder and then bends it into the far corner.”

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Saka has 12 goals and 10 league assists so far this season, as his brace in the 4-1 win over Crystal Palace saw him become the first player in the league to reach double figures for both. He has spearheaded Arsenal’s title charge and it is not the first time he has been lauded by Richards.

Richards had previously named Saka in his Player of the Year nominations, before conceding that Erling Haaland deserved the award. “Saka is just relentless, isn’t he?” Richards wrote for the BBC. “His numbers are brilliant but his all-round play and his mental strength are just remarkable as well, especially for someone who is only 21.

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“He is always willing to take big penalties and he is never fazed, whatever the occasion or situation in the game – he steps up in big moments. Saka is one of the main reasons Arsenal are challenging for the title and, regardless of whether they win it from here, he has just been unbelievable and he seems to just get better and better.

“He is a winger but unlike, say Anthony at Manchester United, is always involved in the game. As well as influencing games with his goals and assists, he allows his team-mates to flourish. The inverted role he has, where he comes inside, allows Ben White space out wide and their relationship is just incredible.”

Pires was a two-time league champion with Arsenal, something Saka will hope he can begin to emulate in May by lifting this year’s title.

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