After months of speculation, Arsenal finally got their man earlier this week as Bukayo Saka renewed his contract.
The 18 year old signed a new long-term contract with the Gunners, putting an end to recent speculation about his future at the club. He previously had entered the final 12 months of his deal and had some of the top clubs in Europe circling him with interest.
After signing the new deal, Saka admitted that being a life long Arsenal fan had been a big factor in his decision to sign while his first-team minutes this season also showed there is a pathway at The Emirates from academy to first-team.
Some rival fans vented their disapproval online, stating that he was wasting his developmental years at a club currently not in a position to challenge for silverware and likely to even miss out on European football completely next year.
While the rival views are obviously bias-tinted, they make a good point. Saka has been performing at a level this year where he would be an asset to any squad in the Premier League, including Champions Liverpool and Manchester City.
His technical ability has seen him become invaluable to Mikel Arteta’s side, with the Spaniard using him in several positions since the resumption of the league to get him into the side. Part of where you think his future should lie will come down to what position you think he’s best in.
While Saka has performed admirably as a winger (on both sides) and a central midfielder, I think he’s been best as a left-back or wing-back. Positionally he’s proved to be very good defensively, while his pace has seen him be very difficult to beat one-on-one. Going forward as a full-back he hasn’t had to deal with being marked tightly too and that freedom has seen him get 9 assists in all competitions this season.
With the influence we have seen Trent Alexander-Arnold have from full-back in his Liverpool side, Saka could look to do something similar at Arsenal. Kieran Tierney is the first-choice left-back currently but has played as a left-sided centre back for Arsenal and Scotland on occasion and if Arteta is willing to move to that formation permanently it’s more than possible to make work.
Despite the loyalty of being an Arsenal fan playing a part in signing a new deal, it’s also a smart career decision in my opinion. Currently at The Emirates, Saka is a regular in the first-team picture and gets plenty of minutes. He has played the full 90 minutes in 8 of Arsenal’s last 11 games, missing just one of those entirely. There is no guarantee he gets as much football elsewhere.
The clubs interested were all in better positions than Arsenal but they weren’t in dire need for Saka in their squad. The interest was common sense – a very good prospect potentially available at a cut-price fee due to his contract situation. It was a no brainer.
At 18 years old, Saka can now focus on developing. His future is secure and his performances have been enough to see him stay in the side. If he can continue that, he’ll be able to stake a big claim for England’s Euro 2020 squad next summer. If Arsenal continue to struggle, the top clubs will remain interested and he’ll still get the big move that could have happened this year. Much like Jude Bellingham, there is no rush for him right now.
If Arsenal manage to turn it around and start challenging again, Saka won’t be looking to move anyway. Everyone’s a winner.
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