Mikel Arteta has admitted it took him some time to work out Bukayo Saka’s best role, but feels Arsenal are benefitting from his involvement and that of the other youngsters coming through the ranks.
Arsenal have had a mixed season and look certain to miss out on a place in the top four, but there have been green shoots of recovery in the shape of the young players emerging at the Emirates.
Emile Smith Rowe, 20, and Gabriel Martinelli, 19, are huge talents at Arteta’s disposal, while Saka has blossomed into an England international at the age of 19.
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Saka’s attacking thrust proved too much for Slavia Prague to handle in the Europa League on Thursday, as Arsenal advanced to the semi-finals, and he is now an established member of Arteta’s attack.
But he was forced to go through a period of adaptation that saw him play in a number of roles, including left-back.
"It took me a while to figure him out," Arteta told Sky Sports of Saka. "That's why I tried to play him in different positions, to see how he reacted.
I wanted to test his character as well because he was playing as a left-back and I know it wasn't his ideal position but he had to go through that period."
As well as natural talent, Arteta believes Saka is flourishing at the highest level due to the intelligence he brings to the pitch.
"We talk about physicality, we talk about spirit, we talk about technique,” Arteta said. “But the brain is the one that makes all the decisions.
"'B' makes a lot of good decisions because he is such an intelligent player who can read situations. And after that, of course, he has the ability to execute them the right way and that's obviously a big quality."

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The future looks bright for Arsenal, and Arteta has said the first port of call for a new member of the first team is the academy. Only after those avenues are exhausted will they look to dip into the transfer market.
"For me, if we want to strengthen our position and we need to recruit somebody, first of all we have to look in our academy," Arteta said. "It's part of the DNA of the club and we have to do that.
"If we have that product in our club, let's bring him in. But he has to have the right qualities, the right mentality and character to do so. If not, we have to go and try to find him.”
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