Making a name for yourself as a youngster at a Premier League club is never easy, but to seamlessly integrate yourself into the first-team setup and become the most important player at the club in the space of about a year? Well that’s different level stuff.
Rewind back to the start of the 2019/20 campaign and Bukayo Saka was a name very few football fans were familiar with.
The Arsenal youngster had played just seven minutes of Premier League football, with his game time limited to cup competitions both domestically and continentally.
Two years on and he’s part of Gareth Southgate’s squad for Euro 2020 and is bound to play a part despite the wealth of talent at the England boss’ disposal.
One of the biggest compliments you could pay the teenager is that he genuinely deserves his chance with the national side given the performances he’s churned out this season, and 90min has take a closer look at the Gunners wonderkid…
We’ve kinda already given this one away, so you already know he’s been brilliant.
As a 19-year-old stepping into the first team of one of the biggest clubs in the country, you expect to be given a helping hand by the senior players around you, but Saka’s not been afforded such luxury.
The Arsenal man has been the driving force in his team, so much so that they look a much weaker outfit when he’s not available.
Saka’s an absolute shoo-in for every starting XI picked by Mikel Arteta and his five goals and four assists in the Premier League this season may not seem particularly impressive, but given the state Arsenal find themselves in, his contribution in the 2020/21 campaign has been invaluable.
One of the best facets of Saka’a game is his adaptability.
Most players go their entire career playing in one specific position – maybe two at a push – yet the Arsenal youngster has already proven himself on the left-wing, behind the striker and even in a left wing-back position.
Undoubtedly his best position of the three is on the left of the frontline where he can drive at defenders as well as providing a goal threat, and he’s previously spoken of his desire to play further up the pitch than in a wing-back position.
If nothing else that just shows the confidence of the man that he’s desperate to get involved rather than just being happy to slowly ease his way into the side by playing out of position.
High praise indeed, but there really are a lot of similarities between Saka and Arsenal legend Robert Pires.
Both players had electric speed and so were able to terrorise right-backs by running at pace while maintaining close control of the ball, however, what sets them apart from traditional wingers is their ability to cut inside.
Both Pires and Saka were equally adept when cutting in on their so-called weaker foot, making them a nightmare to defend against with right-backs in two minds as to whether to follow their man or pass them onto a teammate.
“My Arsenal teammate Bukayo Saka will hopefully be in the England squad. He’s a quality player.”
– Kieran Tierney
“He’s a top player, he has a top mentality which is very unusual for a young player like him, he’s very professional. I’m pretty sure he will become a world class player and we are very happy to have him.”
– Bernd Leno
“He’s really humble, really respectful and at the same time has that character to demand the ball, to make decisions that are not very usual for his age. We need that leadership.”
– Mikel Arteta
It’ll probably come as no surprise that Saka’s FIFA rating over the last few years has increased at a faster rate of inflation than anything else on the planet.
The England international’s FIFA 21 rating starts off at 79 – already pretty impressive we’re sure you’ll agree. However, with a little training he’s got a potential rating of 88, making him a future superstar.
Every Football Manager lover is on the lookout for a talented wonderkid they can snap up for pennies before moulding them into a star, right? Yeah, Saka’s not that we’re afraid.
Wonderkid? Absolutely. Cheap? Nope.
The Arsenal man is already valued at £26m when you start your FM save, but if you can afford him then he’s a must-buy. His physical and mental stats on the game are unreal considering he’s just 18 at the start of your save and with a bit of training on his technical stats he could soon be a world beater.
There was a time when professional footballers wouldn’t be seen dead in a pair of New Balance boots, but they’ve made some seriously nice stuff in recent years.
Saka wears their Furon V6+ boots and so is likely to be wearing a pair at Euro 2020.
Again this is already a subject we’ve touched on. Given the wealth of options available to Southgate in the wide forward areas, even Saka will struggle to get much game time at Euro 2020.
However, given how many positions he can comfortably slot into, you’d fancy him to play some part in the tournament whether it be as a wing-back or as a left forward.
His winning goal for England against Austria at the Riverside Stadium will have done his chances of playing a part no harm whatsoever and we’d be amazed if he didn’t make his major international tournament debut in the coming weeks.