Arsenal’s shining star made every Gooner proud after scoring a brace on his England World Cup debut, but he has more in his locker and can be the key to bringing football ‘home’.
Last summer, Bukayo Saka was on all the front pages but not for something to be celebrated. Fast forward 18 months, the Arsenal starlet has become England’s third youngest World Cup scorer and the youngest to score a tournament brace.
Redemption? He’s on his way.
Since that chastening 2021 summer, Bukayo’s trajectory has been rising not only in price but in his importance to Arsenal. This is after winning Arsenal’s 2021/22 Player of the Season and starting 2022/23 with similar excellence. His five Premier League assists this term can only be topped by a certain Kevin De Bruyne.
Direct. Explosive. La Pausa.
His style of play is ideal for the role he performs for both Arsenal and the national team. He truly is one of a kind. Initially starting as a left-back in early 2020, he swiftly moved into an advanced role down the right, where he was able to make an instant impact and eventually evolve into a winger capable of performing on the biggest of international stages.
In the below highlights of our forgettable 1-1 draw with Leicester two years ago, you can see Saka carry the ball in transition, and ever since he’s broken into the first team, he’s been incredibly direct and decisive in such situations. He picks out an accurate ball across to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; a perfect pass with the perfect weight.
England will inevitably be in situations like these, especially in a tournament setting where players will eventually take their own initiative to win the game. His ability to beat his man (or even more than one man) 1vs1 is a special trait and he often creates goal-scoring chances as a result.
This was depicted in Saka’s second goal on Monday where he was in a similar position but decided to take matters into his own hands. See how he delayed to create the opening before finishing with aplomb. Pausa.
Maturity beyond his years.
Saka’s development over the years has been a joy to watch. The gem from Hale End. He’s established himself as one of the top wingers in the Premier League and the eye test is backed up by the numbers provided by FBRef. He’s notched 4.88 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes over the past year, which ranks in the 85th percentile of all attacking midfielders and wingers from Europe’s top five leagues. He also ranks in the highest 8th percentile for touches in the attacking penalty area.
Saka earned the Man of the Match award on his World Cup debut, which was well deserved. An stellar performance alongside England’s other young lions that should be remembered, and one that Southgate will undoubtedly take into account when picking his team to line up against the USA.
It’s easy to forget that Saka is only 21 years of age. A star for the Gunners, but now, he’s proving himself to be a nova for England. There’ll always be competition in the national team, with Phil Foden itching to take his place. However, if that flawless showing is anything to go off, Foden will have to stay patient on the bench.
The proof is in the pudding. He’s England’s most natural right-winger, and with his development over the years, the Three Lions are poised to reap the rewards. Saka can be the jewel to the crown, a crown that has been waiting to return for 56 long years.