Why securing the long-term future of Bukayo Saka is imperative: A deeper look
By Max Champness
Since the start of the season, although this appears to be changing under the new boss Mikel Arteta, there has been very little for Arsenal fans to celebrate- bar a few saving graces. One of these, perhaps most significantly, has been the emergence of some young talents within the ranks- especially that of new signing Gabriel Martinelli and Hale End graduate Bukayo Saka.
Despite the former grabbing the majority of headlines for his incredible rise from regional Brazilian football to challenging for a starting place at one of the biggest clubs in English football, it is for me Bukayo Saka who has been the triumph of the season- epitomising almost every quality us fans look for in a rising youngster.
With the unfortunate injuries to both Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac, Saka has had to step-in and fill the left back role, despite not being accustomed to it naturally. Since his first appearance several months ago, the eighteen-year-old has been consistently exceptional in both his defensive duties and supplying his teammates with high quality service. His outstanding ability to excel despite unfavourable circumstances has come as a pleasant surprise to both the Arsenal fanbase and his fellow teammates- club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, has nicknamed the Englishman ‘Lil Chilli’.
This season, Saka has registered eight assists in all competitions, more than any other Arsenal player. He’s picked up numerous ‘Man of the Match’ awards and displayed a side of his game never before seen by Arsenal fans- a surprisingly refined defensive ability. The fact that an eighteen-year-old, playing in a foreign position to him as a defender, is the leading playmaker- ahead of the likes of Mesut Ozil- is a testament to the youngster’s talent.
In a recent interview, he opened up on his experiences at left-back:
“I’m really enjoying my football under the new manager. It’s not my natural position but he’s [Arteta] given me all the advice I need. I learned a lot about how wingers in the Premier League play against defenders and how to position myself because in his system it’s different. I get to play much higher because the winger comes inside and I get to go. There’s a lot of space for me and it’s good for me. I’m playing sort of as a winger when we have the ball but without the ball, I have to come back and work on my clearances, my heading and stuff I haven’t worked on my whole life. I feel like I’m doing ok right now. In the future, if I do get to go back onto the wing I feel like I know how full-backs play and playing as a full-back I know what wingers do, what I like them to do and what I don’t like them to do. It’s a good learning experience for me.”
The determination of the youngster is evident- so eager to prove himself in any circumstance- it’s just another excellent attribute Saka possesses.
The England under-19 international has continued to be deployed at left-back despite the return of Kolasinac to full fitness. If he continues his fine run of form, it seems only right that he’ll maintain his starting place. However, with just eighteen months left on his contract and his successes attracting the attention of several big clubs, Arsenal have to act fast to secure the long term future of Saka. At just £3,000 a week, Saka is set to increase his wage by ten times- with the club very eager to tie him down.
When I say that this is one of the most important decisions Arsenal will face this season, I mean no less. This youngster truly does have the potential to become a legend at Arsenal- he possesses all the physical and mental attributes needed to be a top footballer. Arsenal must do anything, within reason, to secure Bukayo Saka’s future at Arsenal. There would surely be significant levels of uproar from the fans if the club fail to do so.
Bukayo Saka- the future of Arsenal; only if the board do what’s best.