Arteta on Saka and penalties

Bukayo Saka takes a penalty against West Ham United

Mikel Arteta has opened up on Bukayo Saka’s penalty miss in the 2-2 draw against West Ham United last Sunday, and the support he has received from everyone inside the club.

When we were awarded a penalty in the 52nd minute of our trip to London Stadium last weekend, Bukayo bravely stepped up to take it as he so often has for us in tense moments - but this time he missed.

Speaking ahead of our game with Southampton on Friday night, Mikel insisted Bukayo will remain our spot-kick taker going forward and can take positives from Sunday’s experience.

“That’s the way he is. He loves the responsibility but as well he puts a lot on his shoulders,” he said. “If he had any doubt about how much people loved or respected him or admired him at the club, he had a very overwhelming reaction from everybody in the building and at the club. 

“I think at the end of this, it can be something very positive that can give him a big lift because everyone reacted in an unbelievable way towards him because he deserves it because of the way he is.”

Bukayo received an outpouring of love from people up and down the country when he missed a penalty in the Euro 2020 final - his first major international tournament - and has since scored four out of five attempts for us in the Premier League.

The miss against the Hammers will go down as another learning curve in Bukayo’s journey, according to Mikel.

“Experiences help obviously, and what he went through in a way was tough, but in a different way it was beautiful and a great experience for him,” he added. “I think that helped him - not only him, but the people around him, to understand what the reaction has to be and the support and protection that he needs. We go again.”

Looking ahead to tomorrow's game, the boss wants to take the opportunity to get back on track with our title bid. He believes our squad can refind their confidence after back-to-back draws on the road saw our cushion at the top of the table reduced.

“Twists and turns are part of anything you do, especially in football,” he said, reflecting on our two previous games. “Whatever the aim or the target is, it is not going to go in a linear progression. You have to know that and prepare for that and the way the team reacted this week is incredibly positive and we want to see that tomorrow night.

“Every game is an opportunity to improve as a team and every game has different gifts. Those gifts are what you take, what you learn and how you improve as a team. We have another gift tomorrow and we have to take it the way we want to.”

Read everything else Mikel said in his pre-match press conference

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