Bukayo Saka’s meteoric rise at Arsenal is nothing short of a miracle for a club that doesn’t have a stable roadmap for itself and its players. And for someone who is playing a gap-filling role in various positions, several suggestions have developed that a departure seems the only option to maintain his upward trajectory as a talented footballer.
The 19-year-old, who has come through the Gunners’ Hale End Academy, made his debut under Unai Emery shortly after his 17th birthday and has developed into a critical first-team player with 10 goals and 18 assists in 73 appearances.
Saka’s versatility on the pitch has impressed former players like Ian Wright, Bacary Sagna, Cesc Fabregas, and Robin van Persie. They have praised the youngster for his maturity and ability to be a match-winner.
Saka is such a good player. Such a maturity and intelligence for his age. Game changer.— Cesc Fàbregas Soler (@cesc4official) February 25, 2021
Despite signing a long-term contract with Arsenal in July 2020, many European clubs would be keen on securing Saka’s services and offer him a brand of football that might skyrocket him to a greater high in the sport.
Absence of a trophy challenge
Barring the FA Cup, Arsenal have failed to mount a serious title challenge since the ‘Invincibles’ campaign in 2003/04.
For someone of Saka’s talent, the Gunners need to display a wholesome intent to win, but this value has lacked over time since the now-departed Mesut Ozil was in prime form for the club.
Naaaaaaaahhhh @BukayoSaka87 what a player ⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️— Bacary Sagna (@Sagnaofficial) February 25, 2021
One can’t expect much from Arsenal, currently in the second half of the 2020-21 Premier League standings, to make an immediate push for a title challenge, but it seems that the Mikel Arteta-led side are slowly making improvements due to the efforts of Saka.
The drawback, however, is that Bukayo Saka’s trajectory of growth is not in tandem with that of Arsenal’s current plans. The youngster requires a strong title challenge to push the limits of his career, and thus, he must have a change of scenery.
Need the right players to boost development
Having started as a winger, Bukayo Saka boasts an electric pace and a strong left foot that helps him manoeuvre the ball effortlessly past opposition defenders on the flanks. But given that he has mostly plied his trade in defensive positions at Arsenal, one can see that his freedom on the pitch is significantly restricted.
Based on talent and deployment, Saka is similar to Bayern’s Alphonso Davies - converted into a wing-back from a regular winger. Both players have been the pillars of strength at their respective clubs, but in Davies’ case, the Canadian has the right players in Joshua Kimmich and Kingsley Coman to back him up.
The current state of affairs can’t account for this need at the Emirates, and thus, a potential club like Bayern Munich or Juventus can be the ideal destinations for 19-year-old Saka to develop into a world-class winger and forward.
Avoid stagnating as a one-club man
For someone as young as Bukayo Saka, the possibility of being a one-club man seems relatively less as he would want to broaden his prospects as a footballer.
Saka, who came up through the Arsenal academy ranks, can undoubtedly look upto Cesc Fabregas and Serge Gnabry, who left the club and gained more significant success elsewhere. In the case of Gnabry, the German forward has now become an irreplaceable component of Bayern’s attacking prowess. During his time at Arsenal, the 25-year-old got just 18 games under his belt and scored one goal.
8 - Since the start of last season, no player has provided more assists in the UEFA Europa League than Bukayo Saka (8). Saviour. pic.twitter.com/zKeoKQYHxO— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 25, 2021
His move to Wolfsburg and a loan at Hoffenheim sharpened Gnabry’s senses in the goalscoring department and the forward has since been a regular feature at the club and international level.
Should Saka follow the same track, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the youngster rise up and compete with the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland as a prolific attacker.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Frank Augstein