Bukayo Saka is fully charged up and in the form of his life. In providing a stellar, four bar-quality connecting call on the weekend for Eddie Nketiah, the 18-year-old racked up his 10th assist of a breakthrough season at the Emirates – and the shouts are now coming thick and fast for him to get called up for England.
The cross in for his fellow Hale End academy graduate saw Saka become the first teenager to reach 10 or more assists in a single season for Arsenal since Cesc Fabregas in 2006/07. What makes this stat crazier is the fact that Saka will remain a teenager until the 5th September 2021. Despite his youth, he's continuing to churn out a level of consistency expected from established veterans of his position.
Saka 🤝 Nketiah.
Arsenal’s starboys are CLEAR. pic.twitter.com/TXiqJs9N1i
— VERSUS (@vsrsus) February 23, 2020
Saka is a player growing in maturity and confidence with every appearance under Mikel Arteta. The Spanish manager’s 4-2-3-1 system gives Saka and Hector Bellerin the license to bomb forward from full back, and it’s clear he’s not lacking in self-belief when it comes to getting up the field and racking up assists from the position. “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,” Saka has said when talking about his new role, “what I like them to do and what I don’t like them to do. It’s a good learning experience for me.”
With Granit Xhaka playing in the half space between left back and centre mid – a position utilised in a similar set up frequently by Arteta’s old tutor, Pep Guardiola – Saka can do what he does best – attack – and is becoming devastating in the final third.
Arteta is keeping Saka grounded, commenting after his weekend performance: “It was a great contribution offensively and as well there were other moments where he showed there’s still a lot of margin for improvement. He has to keep his feet on the ground and we have to help do that.”
His manager can remain cool but ultimately, the improvements to Saka’s game under the Spaniard means that he is the most in-form left back in the country.
Bukayo Saka is too funny 🤣
“Whoops” as he rewatches his nutmeg. pic.twitter.com/j7l4o6Ys9q
— VERSUS (@vsrsus) February 16, 2020
The Ealing-born teen is now putting numbers on the board on a weekly basis, where he currently leads the way with most assists at the club (10), the entire Europa League (5), and most assists for a teenager (3) in the Premier League. Considered a talented prospect at the start of the campaign, Saka is now vital for both the present state and future of the club, having grabbed every opportunity he’s been offered.
Alexander Lacazette recently quipped “sign please” to a comment Saka made on Instagram, and that’s a sentiment that would be echoed throughout the entire club and its fan base. With Arsenal reportedly working hard to tie Saka down to a new deal, England will also be desperate to ensure Saka commits his future to the Three Lions – with shouts of him getting a call up to Gareth Southgate’s side growing every single game week.
On current form, Saka should be getting a call up for England’s Euro 2020 squad. While Ben Chilwell will remain Southgate’s first choice left-back for the tournament despite his patchy form, it’s clear England are struggling for in-form players in the position. Danny Rose and Luke Shaw haven’t been setting the world alight, with Ryan Bertrand in a similar boat. The Three Lions boss should now genuinely be looking at Saka as an understudy for the Leicester man in the England setup who can provide unpredictability and freshness to the role.
Saka would not only be a decent back-up for Chilwell, but would also add an attacking threat on the Three Lions’ left flank, in a squad short on that side of the pitch at present. Offering genuine width, a sharp left foot and an eye for goal, Saka would add something different to the usual Southgate set up at St George’s Park.
At Arsenal, Kieran Tierney is still unfit, and Sead Kolasinac is now injured, meaning Saka will continue to get the consistent game time needed to maximise his potential. With more minutes therefore ensured for the young baller, we might just be seeing the young prodigy earn an England call up as a result.