Armand Traore has backed Arsenal’s teenage sensation Bukayo Saka to become a club stalwart should he stay grounded.
Saka enjoyed something of a breakthrough season at the Emirates under Mikel Arteta last term, with his versatility meaning he was played at full-back and on the wing under the Gunners’ promising head coach.
He racked up four goals and a further 11 assists in all competitions, proving himself to be one of the brightest young talents in the Premier League, with his superb form earning him a new long-term contract at the club.
Saka will also don the iconic number seven shirt for Arsenal this season as well, something which can be considered as a huge show of faith from Arteta.
Traore, who made 33 appearances for Arsenal, knows what it is like to come through the Gunners’ academy after joining the club as a teenager and he can relate to Saka having also been given a first-team breakthrough at a young age.
The duo also play in the same position and Traore has been impressed by what he has seen from the 18-year-old so far.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT, Traore said: “I think he’s an unbelievable little player. He’s very exciting and I enjoy watching him play.
“The advice I would give him would be stay surrounded by good people because I’ve suffered a lot from that [and] I’ve made really bad choices in my career. If you’re not surrounded by the right people, you will go downhill from there.
“I would tell him to stay at Arsenal. Now, if I had the chance, I would not have left Arsenal and I think I would have stayed for a few more years.
“Be patient and enjoy every time you play and work hard and be professional. Talent is not enough. I used to think that when I was younger and how arrogant I was to think that. If you can couple the talent with the hard work, he will be at Arsenal for the next decade, probably more.”
Saka is part of a new breed coming through at Arsenal, with fellow academy graduates Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock also featuring regularly last season.
Many Gunners fans are brimming with optimism at present after an encouraging end to the previous campaign, which saw the club win the FA Cup with a 2-1 win over Chelsea at Wembley, securing Arteta his first piece of silverware as a manager.
That optimism has only been heightened after Arsenal lifted the Community Shield last weekend by beating reigning Premier League champions Liverpool on penalties as well.
Arteta acted quickly to bring in Willian on a free transfer during the summer window and Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes swiftly followed, as he desperately tries to restore the Gunners to their former glory.
Top goalscorer Pierre-Emerick Aubamemyang is also reportedly close to handing the club a huge boost by signing a new deal at the Emirates, and if Arsenal are to challenge for a top four place next season, Traore feels they need to strengthen their midfield by bringing in Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid.
“First of all, they need to keep Aubameyang if they want to do that [finish in the top four],” Traore explained.
“I would strengthen the central defence. I wouldn’t mind a guy like Partey in there sitting in front of the defence or somebody a bit angry. He [Partey] reminds me a bit of your Gilberto [Silva] or [Patrick] Vieira [in terms of] somebody who can go out there and give it a go.
“They’re playing good football. I’m really impressed with Arsenal at the moment, if I have to be honest.
“I think Arteta has done a great job and I can only see them doing well in the future.”