Arsenal: Bukayo Saka has laid down the gauntlet on Nicolas Pepe

Arsenal, Bukayo Saka (Photo by Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Bukayo Saka (Photo by Sam Bagnall - AMA/Getty Images) /

Bukayo Saka has now started two matches in a row since signing his new deal at Arsenal and in that time, he’s done what I thought impossible.

Arsenal pulled off a massive coup securing Bukayo Saka to a long-term deal in the midst of the drama surrounding his future. Since that happened, Bukayo Saka has started two matches, both of which have shown his incredible quality, yet both matches were stark contrasts.

Against Wolverhampton, he was pretty awful but scored a crucial goal that spurred the team to a victory. Against Leicester City, he was tremendous throughout, accounted for just the one assist but showcased incredible talent outside of that and rightfully should have had more stats to show for it.

All in all, in two matches he has done something I did not think could happen—he has made a viable case that he should be starting over Nicolas Pepe regularly.

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Up until Nicolas Pepe had to miss Wolverhampton because of his wife having a baby, I was all in on Pepe. He was our best attacker, our top goal producer, he was a mover and a shaker and that rare guy that could do it all by himself.

Not going to lie, I was devastated that he wasn’t in the starting XI against Wolves. I love Bukayo Saka, but Pepe has been the main man.

In just two matches, that script has completely flipped. I don’t see how you can justify starting Pepe over Saka now. He’s just been too good and he’s only getting better. It’s a repeat of what happened under Unai Emery, when Saka won out over Pepe then too.

The only thing I can think of is a rotation like what was happening with Lacazette and Nketiah, or with Bellerin and Cedric. With matches coming in so hard and fast, maybe it’s time to start alternating between Pepe and Saka to keep them both fresh and involved. That’s the diplomatic solution.

The ruthless solution is to stick with one until they fail, and that means sticking with Saka until he fails which may not happen for another decade or more. Because he’s just that good.

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It’s not an easy problem to solve. Or question, rather, since it’s hardly a problem at all. What do you do when you have two elite goal threats, both carrying tremendous value, both playing the same position? I guess you rejoice.