Arsenal are in a rut and the route to goal lengthens every game.
Whichever way is looked at the find the elusive area between each post bears no fruit at present, with Arsenal’s wealth of expensive attacking talent struggling to nail down one of the bare essentials of the actual sport.
Instead, Arsenal are forced to rely on Bukayo Saka to add spark and inventiveness, a huge demand to bestow on an academy graduate who is still only 19 years old. It’s a frightening dependency, although Mikel Arteta is ultimately relying on it.
A player of his undoubted quality will always have the ‘game-changer’ tag attached, regardless of their age, but when Saka is seemingly the only source of creativity within the squad, the alarm bells ring.
Ian Wright, speaking on Wrighty’s House podcast, shares such concerns, insisting the overuse of the forward is ‘fundamentally wrong’.
"“He’s our most creative player at 19. When you look at it like that, there’s something fundamentally wrong when he has to play so frequently to help a team like Arsenal to win,” Wright said.“Even more so when we look at Mesut Ozil not being able to get a squad number. We’re asking an 19-year-old to come off the bench, he’s just played three games for England, and now he’s injured. That’s too much pressure already.”"
It is too much. We can sit and praise the bravery Saka exhibits in which no situation or opposition fazes him, yet that can’t justify the overreliance Arsenal now have on the youngster.
At Leeds when the game was drifting further away from the Gunners, the immediate desire was to see Saka come on and turn the tide. There was no link between midfield and attack, no incision in the running and little drive with the ball – Saka’s remit.
He should (and won’t) play any part against Molde in the Europa League, ideally featuring as minimally as possible until the fixtures increase in difficulty. A daunting winter schedule awaits English sides and if Arsenal are to avoid drifting further afield from the top four contenders then Saka is indispensable.
Truthfully, with the way the season is panning out, we may need grudgingly to depend on Saka even longer.