Arsenal of England winger, Bukayo Saka has gained a rave of eulogies from some of his youth days’ mentors, educationists and ex-football stars, with all singing praises about his remarkable breakthrough season with The Gunners, megasportsarena.com reports.
The latest rain of accolades for the Nigerian-born 18-year-old come ahead of Arsenal’s Monday clash with Sheffield United in the English Premier League, with many pundits of a view that the youngster will get a role to play with The Gunners in the encounter at Bramall Lane.
Such is the verdict coming from former Liverpool defender, Jamie Carragher, Manchester United ex-midfielder, Roy Keane and erstwhile Arsenal captain, Cesc Fabregas, who all say Saka is showing talent beyond his age, yet are unanimous in the verdicts that he still has a lot more to offer the watching world of soccer.
Carragher marveled that the lad has exhibited great composure and quality on the ball, adding that “Saka is a player. Eighteen years old and showing great maturity;” while Keane spoke about the youngster’s lovely performances and Fabregas voiced his approval.
Not to be left out of the plaudits, two former teachers of the youngster in football and academics are also waxing lyrical over how the lad has gone from acing exams and learning to play left-back to starring in Arsenal’s attack, while current Arsenal captain, Granit Xhaka said: “Respectful, very hard-working and always willing to learn.”
Saka made another huge impression in Arsenal’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United last month at Old Trafford, a drab game that provided him another platform to further enhance his very rapidly growing reputation at 18 years and 25 days old.
It was only his seventh senior appearance for Arsenal, and Saka became the youngest player to start a Premier League game between the two sides, as he made the best of his outing on a pitch many players far older than him have crumbled, and there was little evidence of inexperience.
A special feature on the rising whiz-kid by Sky Sports adds: “Saka’s starting spot now looks more secure than that of the £72m Nicolas Pepe. Unai Emery described Saka as an “important player” after the Manchester United game and started him again in the 1-0 win over Bournemouth. The academy graduate will be confident of keeping his place against Sheffield United on Monday.
“Saka threw himself into his football with the same dedication, rising through Arsenal’s youth ranks and breaking into Freddie Ljungberg’s U23s soon after his 17th birthday. At the same time, he was faring similarly well in England’s junior sides, impressing coaching staff with the manner in which he embraced an unfamiliar position.
“He has shown the same willingness to take on Emery’s instructions this season, his adaptation helped by the presence of his mentor Ljungberg on the first-team coaching staff, and there has also been evidence of his defensive awareness, as he is averaging more tackles per 90 minutes in the Premier League than any other Arsenal player.
“Saka provided the first glimpses of his raw talent last season – most notably with his man-of-the-match showing against Qarabag in the Europa League – but, much like one of his driving runs down Arsenal’s left flank, his progress has gained momentum in the new campaign.
“The winger scored his first senior goal in the 3-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt last month, finding the bottom corner with a curling finish from 25 yards out, and there have also been three assists, including the smart through-ball for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s equaliser at Old Trafford.
“It’s that ability that has propelled Saka into the spotlight, moving him above fellow academy graduates Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock in Emery’s pecking order, but what’s just as encouraging for Arsenal supporters is that he is demonstrating the right character too. Saka is confident and mature on the pitch and humble off it.
“They are traits recognisable not just to those working in Arsenal’s academy, which he joined at the age of eight, but also the staff at Greenford High School in Ealing, west London, where he was a student from the age of 11 to 16.
“Saka was training regularly with Arsenal by the time he started at Greenford, making the long journey from his family home in Ealing to the club’s north-east London academy several times per week, but it is a testament to his attitude – and aptitude – that he never allowed his studies to suffer – even when his football commitments required time out of school.”
Saka’s former assistant head teacher, Mark Harvey, who also taught him physical education, also told Sky Sports.”He was a role model of a student. A lovely and respectful lad with a really nice attitude. He just carried himself in such a nice way.
“Sometimes you can teach students who are exceptionally good at football, but when you get them on a pitch, they just hog the ball or they want to show off with it. Bukayo wasn’t that sort of guy at all. If anything, he played down how good he was, which was really nice to see.
“He did his GCSEs with us before he left and he did very, very well. All of his grades were high, particularly in English and Maths. He also did business studies, he did combined sciences. He just did very well across the board, which is amazing considering the amount of time he had out of school with his football.
“We knew how studious he was and the grades he was getting, so we were flexible about allocating him time out. His family were really supportive and always ensured he would do his homework, which for us was the key thing.”
England’s former under-18 national team coach, Neil Dewsnip further disclosed to Sky Sports: “(Saka) caught the eye in the same way he does now. He was very quick, powerful and could hurt defences, whether that was as an out-and-out left winger or indeed as a left-back, which is where he played for us at the start of last year.
“He handled that positional change very well. He’s very competent at one-v-one defending, so defensively he didn’t really get found out, and he was very good at learning. He was open-minded to everything myself and my assistant, Mike Marsh, told him. He wasn’t in any way obstructive to anything that any member of staff said.”