It’s the international break. A total snooze. But I’m guessing thats something you have been hearing and feeling yourself. On the bright side, today means we are over halfway through the break, which cannot end soon enough.
Even worse than an international break, is an international break that follows the worst performance your team has put on, possibly in over a year, that confirms almost all of your fears in 90 minutes. You spend the week thinking about the issues, fearing the rest of the season, and trying to find solutions that need to be explored.
It’s one of the tougher burdens we fans shoulder. Two weeks of reliving the struggles without any real influence over the solutions.
On the bright side, we can preoccupy ourselves with the international appearances of Arsenal’s finest players. One of whom as proved himself time and time again in the last year — Bukayo Saka.
It’s been a major season for Bukayo Saka. Fresh off of extending his contract for Arsenal, he has proven himself to be a player that seems to have more to offer with each match he plays. To cap off this brilliant calendar year in his young life, he made his debut for the England national team in October.
He’s been a revelation for Arsenal as he demonstrates his quality and versatility. There has yet to be a position that Arsenal have placed him in that he hasn’t brought his quality to. And when Arsenal are in need of a make over in the attacking department, he has shown that he should be considered key to bringing it all together.
He is good in tight spaces with the ball at his feet, he has demonstrated an ability to play close to the touchline and tuck himself into the midfield. He drops back in defense, he shoots, and assists, and he has become a real asset on the left side of any set up.
For anyone that believed his success was only possible within an Arsenal set up that favors the left side, think again. Yesterday, in England’s match against Belgium, Saka was brought on for Ben Chillwell in the left wingback position and clearly asked to offer more in the midfield and attack. Quite the statement for Saka to replace a player just bought for £50m, although Chillwell did take a knock moments before.
Saka took full advantage of his 52 minutes to shine, which has to be one of Saka’s finest qualities. Whether you start him or play him as a sub, he doesn’t let an appearance go to waste often. Despite only playing 52 minutes, Saka created the most chances in the match, had a shot, 94% passing success, 5 crosses, 3 key passes, 3 duels won, 2 interceptions, and 8 recoveries.
I know that England lost in what was definitely a poor performance from The Three Lions, but Saka’s performance demonstrates, once more, the type of player he can be when tasked with aiding in the attack. He isn’t going to revolutionize a side like Jack Grealish and he probably isn’t capable of being an outright number 10 attacking midfielder, but he has shown that he has to be strongly considered for Arsenal’s left side regardless of the formation Arteta selects.
Should Arteta choose to continue with his 3-4-3 set up, it makes sense that Saka continues to be one of the first names on the team sheet at the left wingback spot, but he could be used for so much more.
A performance like yesterday’s sparks the imagination into wanting him to be the key figure unlocking Arsenal’s ability to push Aubameyang centrally, while Saka takes up the left wing. It makes you want to see what Saka can offer as the left-sided center midfielder within a 3-man midfield. To see him flourish as an attack-minded, box-to-box midfielder playing alongside Partey and Willock or Ceballos, or Elneny.
There have been a handful of games where Arsenal have missed quality between the lines, but Saka has shown glimpses of talent in those voids when he gets the ball into his feet. He’s crafty, slick, technical, and brave. Isn’t that much of what Arsenal are missing in their attack?
We will have to see how Arteta adjusts after his own international break, but Saka has proven to me that he should be a key player that drives a change to Arsenal’s attacking set up.