Arsenal would be nothing without Bukayo Saka. Nothing.
Does the above place additional pressure on Bukayo Saka? It will do. No doubt about that. Arsenal ended a run of four straight home defeats with a 1-1 draw against Southampton, one that can be be almost solely attributed to the 19-year-old.
He wasn’t the one clearer crosses away in the dying embers, nor was he palming away efforts from range. What he did was what no other member of this squad can: produce.
Defending is easier than attacking. Putting ten men behind the ball requires a healthy degree of structure and discipline, and while offensive play demands similar traits, there is also increased reliance on individual brilliance.
Mikel Arteta has a team incapable of breaking down opposition sides. A formula that has brought no success, relying on opposition errors and high turnovers, cries out for a certain profile of player. One who can drop a shoulder and shimmy beyond the press, beat his man and put the ball on a plate for another, or, simply score goals.
Only Saka can provide this at Arsenal, a terrifying summation of the ineptitude littered throughout the squad. Hundreds of millions of pounds worth of attacking talent outdone by the personality and determination of a teenager who’s played everywhere but in goal throughout his 58 senior outings.
This hasn’t been the best form Saka has been in. Not at all. He shone brightest when the rest of the team were giving 50% more than they are. No player, no matter how talented they are, can perform to the best of their abilities when their teammates don’t follow suit.
Saka has done well this season, but in truth he’s done magnificently having been forced to carry the burden this team has long-since abandoned. No weight of expectation or disappointment should be carried by one man. Let alone one still a teenager.
It’s a matter of time before he too feels the full force of the adversity. Saka continues to drag his side through the mire, but until the remaining cast support him in facing the strain, his plucky spirit can only be sustained for so long.
Saka will never give up. That’s not who he is. But the longer the rest of the team weigh him down, his ability to impact will lessen. How damning. How outright sad.