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Saka can become 'one of the best in the world', says Petit as former Arsenal midfielder also impressed by Martinelli and Smith Rowe

7:00 AM EDT 4/4/22
Gabriel Martinelli Bukayo Saka Arsenal 2021-22
The World Cup-winning Frenchman continues to keep a close eye on events at Emirates Stadium and is excited about what the future could hold

Arsenal have a lot of exciting young talent at their disposal right now, with Emmanuel Petit of the opinion that Bukayo Saka boasts the potential to become “one of the best players in the world”.

The Gunners have always been prepared to show faith in academy graduates, while also investing heavily in potential stars of the present and future, with the likes of Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli also gracing their books.

Petit, who won a Premier League and FA Cup double in 1997-98 during a three-year stint in north London, is among those expecting big things from a promising squad that continues to head in the right direction under Mikel Arteta.

Who is the brightest star in Arsenal’s ranks?

Asked by GOAL to pick out the hottest prospect in Arsenal’s squad, Petit – speaking in association with Lord Ping – said: “Saka. Since he came into the first team, he has been a hit. I love this guy. I love his mentality, I love his behaviour, I love his sweetness.

“I love as well his skills on the pitch because he looks like a baby but he plays like an experienced player. He has got so much responsibility on his shoulders, especially after what happened at the Euros and the criticism he received, the stuff on social networks. He is still young this guy and he has managed this situation with so much maturity. It’s the same on the pitch.

“For me, he could become one of the best players in the world in the next few years if he is still improving the way he is. Because of his mentality and professional approach, while his ambition is so high as well, I can see him improving a lot again. He is young and one of the most important players at Arsenal.

“When you look at the other young players, the young guns have been so impressive in terms of taking responsibility on the pitch and taking the keys of the team – instead of the experienced players.

“I can see Saka improving a lot in the next few years, but also you look at Martinelli, you look at Smith Rowe, these young players can be the future of Arsenal. I have also been very impressed with Martinelli. He has got so much speed in his game and is technically good as well after so many months of injuries. He is becoming a proper player for Arsenal.”

Have Arsenal found the right formula?

Arteta always said that it was going to take a while for him to turn Arsenal’s fortunes around, with the emphasis being placed on youth requiring experience to be acquired before consistency was added to collective efforts.

The same is true for those that have been drafted in from elsewhere, with the likes of Thomas Partey taking a while to find their feet in English football before coming good in a 2021-22 campaign that has a top-four finish and Champions League qualification very much on the cards.

Petit feels the Gunners have found the right formula, particularly in the engine room that he once dominated alongside fellow countryman Patrick Vieira.

The 1998 World Cup winner said when asked if he is happy with Arsenal’s midfield and the development of Ghana star Partey: “Yes, very happy. Even with [Albert Sambi] Lokonga when he started at the beginning of the season, he looked good as well.

“If you look at Thomas Partey, he is not the same rock that he was at Atletico in midfield. It is not a surprise that his partner in midfield, [Granit] Xhaka, is now back at his best level as well. We don’t talk about that guy anymore with red cards and stupid fouls or silly behaviour, this is not the case now for weeks. It is no surprise either that Partey has become a hit for Arsenal.

“Arteta has made a huge impression with this team because individuals have been very impressive. You talk about Saka on the right wing, but also about Partey as a holding midfielder who can play box-to-box.

“The defence as well – [Aaron] Ramsdale, [Ben] White, even [Takehiro] Tomiyasu at right-back has made a big impression as well. It’s not a surprise that Arsenal are getting better and better because individuals are getting better and better.

“Thomas Partey has been a rock. When he came back from the Africa Cup [of Nations] he got sent off straight away at the Emirates [against Liverpool], but he worked a lot in training and with the right attitude and the right mentality. Now, when you look at his displays against Manchester City and Liverpool, he is a proper international player. This is exactly what Arsenal have needed for ages.”

The Gunners, who sit fifth in the Premier League table at present while boasting games in hand on all of those directly around them in the quest to finish fourth, will be back in action on April 4 when taking in a short trip to London rivals Crystal Palace.

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