Bakary Sako goes into the game against Arsenal having had the pleasure of looking at a Premier League league table over the Christmas period showing the club outside the bottom three.
Having had a tough start to the campaign it was not a present that the Eagles squad would have been expecting but the 29 year old is delighted with the turnaround.
“It is a good feeling to be in the current league position going into the Arsenal game and to actually get out of the bottom three gave us all a massive boost because we have been fighting hard to turn things around in recent weeks. The important thing now though is to keep going and work hard to stay where we are in our next set of fixtures coming up.
“This unbeaten run of results has given us a lot of confidence and you can see that in our performances because the improvement in form means that you all get a lift and the feeling around the club is one where we can hopefully use the positives to build on how far we have come as a group of players.”
Goals in the victories against Watford and Leicester have seen him add to his two cup goals earlier this season but the winger was pleased to start scoring in the top flight once again.
“It’s been a while before that since I scored in the Premier League so it was a nice feeling to score in those two games. Each time I play I am fortunate to have some opportunities to score but maybe I have been unlucky in the past when I haven’t been able to convert the chances but now hopefully that has changed for me and seeing my name on the scoresheet has certainly made me happy."
After the draw at Swansea attention now turns to two home games in four days against Arsenal and Manchester City.
Arsene Wenger’s side sit sixth in the table, four away from Liverpool in fourth spot as they return to south London for the first time since their 3-0 defeat against Palace at the end of last season.
“They always have a big expectancy hanging over them because of the size of club that they are but this season they are in the battle to stay in the top four but we must focus on what we are going to do and and try to repeat what we did last year," Sako commented as he looked ahead to playing a side he has a lot of admiration for.
“They have a great style of football with a good passing through the team and always look good on the ball. For us it’s one of those games where the pressure is not as heavy on us as Arsenal will be looked upon as strong favourites in this one.”
Those two recent goals for Roy Hodgson’s side have seen Sako playing in the striker role rather than his more conventional winger position and this is a change which has come about since the boss has been working with the Mali international.
“I was not used to playing as a striker but under Roy Hodgson I have learned a lot and have been delighted to have the chance to play there. I am getting used to what is expected in that role, he has spoken to me about the importance of the movement, what is expected of me in different areas and I am learning all the time and obviously it has been good to have scored a couple of goals whilst playing there.
“The manager has got loads of experience and that is why it is so good to pick all that up from him when he puts across his instructions to you and he has helped me so much since he has come in. He is a manager who is really focussed on what he wants so on the training pitch as a squad we keep working on different methods until we get it right and that must continue for us to succeed."
A striker he will certainly learn from is his good friend, Christian Benteke, and Sako was delighted to see the Belgian get back on track with a Premier League goal in the victory on the road at Leicester.
“He is a good friend of mine and a great guy and was so pleased for him when he scored that goal, he works so hard at his game so I was pleased to see him get that goal because he was so keen to start scoring again. We know each other well and he is a striker who always wants to score and is a really good professional and has done so well since joining the club. He is so good to play alongside because as well as being strong in the air he can also hold the ball up well and obviously everyone knows the number of goals he has got in the box getting on the end of crosses.
“He will be vital for us in the second half of the season and goals will give him confidence so he will be keen to be back against Arsenal after missing the game at Swansea.”
Bakary is known for his smiling face whether you see him around the Copers Cope training ground or on a matchday and that will not disappear if his recent turnaround in fortune is to continue.
“I have been injured for a while since I have been here but obviously now I am back I am enjoying the game time and with the trust the manager is showing in me that is great. I am getting back to fitness as well as having some more minutes on the pitch and this means I get confidence and let’s hope that continues.
“We have some really good players and I am delighted to be part of a squad who have great quality and can be big players for us. For me personally to have the chance to battle for a place is great because it’s about having that competition and the more people battling for places means the level is raised in training so we all be in there showing what we can do."
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