Mikel Arteta in awe of ‘incredible’ Arsenal star after gutsy Liverpool draw

Mikel Arteta on Bukayo Saka

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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was left in awe of Bukayo Saka following his “incredible” performance against Liverpool on Thursday. Arsenal dug out a goalless draw at Anfield in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final despite playing for over an hour with 10 men. And Saka was one of the stars of the show for the Gunners.

The England international was forced to play in midfield alongside Albert Sambi Lokonga and Gabriel Martinelli following the first-half red card for Granit Xhaka.

But Saka continued to push his side forward and had Arsenal’s best chance of the match, seeing his effort from close range saved by Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson.

Saka was clearly struggling with an injury but attempted to carry on before he was finally substituted with 10 minutes remaining.

Speaking to Norwegian TV channel Viaplay, Arteta singled out the 20-year-old for his performance and at one point was almost lost for words.

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Arteta said: “Bukayo, he was incredible. The personality he showed, the quality, the fight.

“The… I don’t know. [Saka] said: ‘Give me the game, I’ll take the ball and make decisions, I’ll play forward’. He played with a real courage.”

Speaking in his press conference after the match, Arteta was unsure over the severity of Saka’s injury.

“I don’t know. He felt something in the last minute, he was really fatigued and I don’t know,” the Spaniard said.

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“He’s a young boy and he recovers pretty quickly, he’s played a lot of minutes in the last months, so let’s see who’s available.”

Liverpool understandably dominated possession at Anfield but Arsenal remained resolute in defence.

They became the first team this season to stop Liverpool from scoring on their home patch.

And Arteta was full of pride for the fight his side showed.

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“I’m extremely proud of what the boys did today in an extremely difficult stadium against a great opponent, and playing 70 minutes with 10 men,” he said.

“It was about fight, spirit, commitment and as well the quality that they showed to play a game that is not in our strength and not in what we trained, but it was necessary to win.

“I want to see a team that plays with emotion and transmits everything that we talked about every day and I’ve seen that today, so I’m very happy.”

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