Mikel Arteta hailed Bukayo Saka’s courage for stepping up to take the penalty that sealed Arsenal’s 4-2 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
Before the game, nobody, not even Arsenal fans, gave Arsenal much hope.
To then watch Arsenal’s team of youngsters stand toe-to-toe with the European Champions was the stuff of dreams, as was the chance to seal the game with a penalty Jon Moss gave the Gunners after an evening of ignoring Mason Mount’s studs rampaging through the Arsenal team.
After the game, Arterta was asked about the penalty and, in particular, Saka’s decision to step up and take it.
“I thought that Gabi was going to take it,” Arteta said. “When I saw that Bukayo took it, honestly, my first thing that I thought was back in the summer and what happened.
“But again, I said to you guys, when that happened to Bukayo, that happened for a reason and he learned so much and he matured so much, that’s why he’s having the season that he’s had.
“For him to have to the courage to say ‘I’m going to take it again’ because I’m sure it was in the back of his mind, for me it’s ‘chapeau’ even if he had missed it.”
Saka’s spot-kick was the youngster’s 10th goal of the season in the Premier League, drawing level with Emile Smith Rowe as the club’s leading scorer this season.
After the game, Saka told Sky Sports, “I told you before, we wanted to give the fans something to believe in. We’ve done that today. We showed fight and character. It’s a huge result for us.
“It was difficult, every time we went ahead, they scored again quickly. We had to settle down and keep our heads. We did that and got the win, we’re happy with ourselves.
“It means a lot for us, you know. Losing three games was really difficult for us but I feel the boys have stayed positive, we’ve worked so hard in training and come here and got a result so we can show the happiness now.”
Asked about the penalty, he said, “I’m trying to get in the box and he’s holding me for like 5 seconds! I have to go down. Of course, he’s going to be angry at me.
“Of course, if I was him, I’d be angry, but it is what it is. I think it was a penalty, the referee didn’t overturn it, so it was a definite penalty.”