Tag Archives: Bukayo Saka

The England team that should start against San Marino

England travel to San Marino on Monday night in need of just one point to confirm their place as group winners and therefore seal qualification for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

A 5-0 win over Albania on Friday all but secured their place in next winter’s tournament, with Harry Kane grabbing a hat-trick to go with Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson’s goals in the first half for a dominant win.

But for Monday’s game Gareth Southgate will be forced to make changes. Luke Shaw and Mason Mount have been ruled out with injuries, while Jordan Henderson, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling have all been released from duty early.



Crystal Palace midfielder Conor Gallagher has been called up from the Under-21’s as extra cover, but will he go straight into the starting lineup for the game? Here is the team I think should start.

Aaron Ramsdale

Jordan Pickford is still the number one for England and Southgate, but with Ramsdale’s current form he deserves a start in a game like this where he’s unlikely to be tested much, if at all.

Trent Alexander Arnold

The Liverpool man has been in excellent form for his club side this season but he was a substitute in the game against Albania on Friday where both Reece James and Kyle Walker started. He’ll get the nod and likely chip in with a goal contribution too.

Trent Alexander-Arnold of England looks on during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between England and Albania at Wembley Stadium on November...

Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings

Southgate has tended to rotate his centre-backs for these games against the more lowly opposition and it doesn’t get more lowly than San Marino, so expect both Coady and Mings to get the nod in this one.

Ben Chilwell

England’s only fit left-back in the squad following Shaw’s withdrawal with concussion, Chilwell is sure to start once again. His good performances in attack will surely lead to chances

Jude Bellingham

Bellingham has been a regular starter for Dortmund and despite only being 18 is one of the most talented footballers in the entire squad. Great in possession, physically imposing and technically astute he’ll have an absolute field day in this game and should start.

Kalvin Phillips

Southgate seems likely to stick with Phillips for this game following the withdrawals of James Ward-Prowse, Henderson and Declan Rice since the announcement of the squad. With Gallagher getting a late call up, he’ll likely start on the bench meaning Phillips starts again.

Gareth Southgate, Manager of England talks to Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka of England during a training session in the gym at St George's Park on...

Bukayo Saka

Saka has shone in an England shirt for the most part of his international career, so selection here will likely see him continue that. With Sterling leaving the squad early, Saka should get the nod and will probably get a goal or assist (or both) in a big win.

Emile Smith Rowe

The first time call-up, Smith Rowe made his debut as a substitute against Albania and should now get a start with Jack Grealish unavailable for the game after returning to Man City. His ability to dribble in tight spaces will help create chances, and in his current form he could well get his first goal for England.

Phil Foden

The key to the future for England, Foden is essential in any success the team will have and he’ll start here and be the main man when it comes to creating chances.

Harry Kane

The likelihood is Tammy Abraham will start this game, but captain Kane should be given the chance to add to his tally for the year. Kane has 12 goals for England in 2021 and broke Wayne Rooney’s record of 37 competitive goals against Albania. He’s only ten goals away from overtaking him on the overall table as England’s highest goalscorer ever, and he can make up some ground in this game even if only given 60 minutes or so.

My 26-man England Euro 2020 squad

Today is the day that Gareth Southgate makes half the nation absolutely ecstatic and the other half furious as he names his England squad for this summer’s European Championships.

UEFA agreed to allow an extra three places in the squad for managers to add following a full campaign of a hectic schedule owing to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last 18 months or so.

That should make it a little bit easier to select a squad but there will still be some big names who miss out. While Southgate will name a provisional squad today, I wanted to see just how difficult it is to do and how different people will react, so this is my 26-man England squad for Euro 2020.

GOALKEEPERS

Jordan Pickford: The Everton stopper’s place as number one for the national team had come under doubt this season but Southgate has stuck by him for the most part and he will 100% be in the squad.

Dean Henderson: He’s always had great ability and has come through the youth ranks with England. Now as Manchester United’s number one, he has earned his place in the senior England team too.

Sam Johnstone: The third spot was sure to be Nick Pope’s, but the Burnley keeper needs knee surgery and is almost certain to be ruled out of the tournament. That means West Brom keeper Johnstone will get the chance to be part of the squad as the third choice.


DEFENDERS

Kyle Walker: Quite comfortably the best performing English right-back this season, Walker won the Premier League and is in the Champions League with Manchester City and deserves his spot. He also offers some flexibility if needed, having played as a centre-back at the 2018 World Cup too.

Reece James: A young right-back, James’ season started impeccably and while he didn’t keep that level throughout the season he wasn’t bad. Good going forward and excellent in a one-on-one situation with a great delivery, he deserves a chance.

Harry Maguire of England celebrates victory with team mate Luke Shaw following the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar qualifying match between Albania and...

Trent Alexander-Arnold: The fact his spot in the squad is so in question is bonkers to me. He had a really tough first half of the season and was rightly left out of the last England squad, but since then he has been back to his brilliant best. He’s improved defensively and has an X-factor when going forward that should make him a shoe-in.

Ben Chilwell: Southgate’s first choice left-back for the most part has had a good debut campaign with Chelsea this season and could top it off by winning the Champions League. He’s decent at both ends of the pitch and this is one of the positions where the choices are pretty clear.

Luke Shaw: Quite comfortably the best left-back in the country this season, Shaw has seen an incredible resurgence in his career this season. He’s been fantastic going forward, with a career high of assists this season but also solid defensively and can even fill in as a third centre-back in a back three too so he’s in.

Harry Maguire: England’s best centre-back and a leader at the back, he’s had a very good season for Manchester United. Aerially he is dominant and while he has got a lack of pace, he knows how to play without it for the most part and shines for Southgate so will start so long as he recovers from his ankle injury.

John Stones: Another player who has seen a huge resurgence in their career this season, Man City have a lot to thank Stones for. While Ruben Dias picked up much of the plaudits (and rightly so), Stones shone next to him and his passing ability from the back should see him as a starter alongside Maguire with fitness permitting.

Fikayo Tomori of Ac Milan gestures during the Serie A match between Ac Milan and Cagliari Calcio. The match ends in a draw 0-0.

Ezri Konsa: While I don’t expect him to go, Konsa is more than deserving of a spot in the squad after the season he has had. Alongside Tyrone Mings, he has shown a fantastic ability in all aspects of defending as well as playing out from the back and in my eyes has outshone his centre-back partner. He has great pace to cover round and is good on the ball to build from the back too, meaning he’d fit into the squad brilliantly.

Fikayo Tomori: For sure a wildcard pick, but Tomori’s form since his January loan move to AC Milan can’t be ignored. He was brilliant in Serie A and the Europa League and caught the eye of everyone who paid any sort of attention. That means if Southgate was doing his job properly he’d have spotted him too, and he deserves an inclusion based on form and ability over Wolves captain Conor Coady.


MIDFIELDERS

Jordan Henderson: Arguably the biggest character in the camp, Henderson is an automatic pick if he’s fit. Great energy, leadership, solid defensively and a decent passing range too, he starts never mind gets included in the squad.

Declan Rice: Potentially the most important piece of the jigsaw in Southgate’s midfield, the West Ham man’s defensive qualities are something that only he brings to the squad. A fantastic tackler with great awareness, he will be key if England get into the latter stages to take on the better teams.

Jude Bellingham: Not many people will have had him down as getting into this squad at the start of the season, but the 17-year-old has been sensational for Borussia Dortmund and earned himself senior minutes earlier in this campaign. He has the ability to fulfil every midfield role and that fearlessness he brings to his game could be huge.

Kalvin Phillips: A fantastic ball playing defensive midfielder, Phillips has been a big part of Southgate’s plans in squads over the last year and he deserves his place in the side as the insurance policy in the centre.

Mason Mount: A real breakthrough campaign this season for Mount, who made himself indispensable for Chelsea and forced his way into the England setup too. Whether it be deeper or slightly more advanced, Mount is almost certain to start and will be included.

Phil Foden: England’s best young player since Wayne Rooney, he was key to Manchester City winning the league and making the Champions League final and is pushing for a starting spot never mind a place in the squad.

Bukayo Saka: The Arsenal man was one of very few bright sparks in a shocking season for the Gunners and his versatility could be absolutely vital for the squad. Able to play as a full-back, wing-back, winger or even central midfielder, he should find that gets him into the squad above anything else.


FORWARDS

Jack Grealish: One of the stand-out performers in the Premier League this season prior to his shin injury, Grealish more than deserves his place in the squad. Brilliant ball retention and manipulation, as well as a ball carrier, eye for a pass and top performances for Villa, he has to be in.

Harry Kane celebrates with Jadon Sancho of England during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier between England and Montenegro at Wembley Stadium on November...

Jadon Sancho: Strangely enough there are squads that don’t have Sancho involved and that just makes zero sense to me. A dazzling winger with pace, agility, a brilliant change of direction, goals and assists, he’s performed brilliantly for Dortmund after a slow start and deserves his spot.

Raheem Sterling: After Harry Kane, Sterling is probably the first attacker on the squad list for Southgate and he’s one of them for me too. While his season for Man City was somewhat underwhelming in comparison to previous campaigns, he has goals, assists and brilliant wing play and can play on either side. His quality is high and he’s a must-pick.

Marcus Rashford: The best season of his club career was slowed somewhat by injuries towards the end, but 20+ goals and 15+ assists in all competitions make him a sure-fire pick. He has that X-factor in one on one situations, has brilliant pace and skill, can play across the entire front three and is a good impact sub if he doesn’t start too.

Harry Kane: Well, duh. England’s best player by a distance, Kane is in the squad and I reckon he’ll play every minute of the tournament too.

Mason Greenwood of Manchester United celebrates scoring a goal to make the score 1-0 with Marcus Rashford during the Premier League match between...

Dominic Calvert-Lewin: Since Kane will likely play in every game and play most minutes, the secondary striker role is one that likely won’t be used much. Despite that, you need someone who is a presence on the pitch if they are needed and can score a variety of different goals, so the Everton man is the best pick.

Mason Greenwood: A wildcard pick again, but it’s rare that as a manager you have so much quality to choose from and have to leave someone out. But Greenwood’s quality with both feet, whether through the middle or out wide means he absolutely has to be in. There’s nobody I’d rather a chance fell to when I needed a goal outside of Kane and that’s enough to sway me.

Europa League last 16 predictions – Olympiacos vs Arsenal

It was close, but Arsenal managed to get into the Europa League last 16 two weeks ago with a big win over Benfica and they will now take on the old rivals Olympiacos for a place in the quarter-finals.

The Gunners drew the first leg with the Portuguese giants 1-1, before beating Benfica in the return leg despite leaving it very late to do so. It took late goals from Kieran Tierney and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to seal progression for Mikel Arteta’s side and keep their season alive beyond February.

They’ll now take on Greek side Olympiacos for the sixth time in the last six years and they’ll look to exact revenge after they were knocked out of the competition last season by them.

The Gunners’ league form has been shocking this season, with Arteta’s side winning just 11 of their 27 league games so far and finding themselves in 10th place in the table.

Their European campaign has certainly been better for them this season, as they won six out of six in the group stages and then avoided defeat in both legs against Benfica to get here. Arteta’s team selections against Benfica suggest that he is planning on taking this tournament very seriously, going at what many would consider to be full strength in both legs.

If that is to continue here, you would expect them to be too much for Olympiacos but many said that last season too.

Arsenal FC v SL Benfica  - UEFA Europa League Round Of 32 Leg Two : News Photo

The Greek side crashed out of the Champions League at the group stages after five defeats from six games in a group containing runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City. They met Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven in the last 32 round and came away with a 4-2 home win before losing the second leg 2-1 to come away with a 5-4 aggregate win.

Their preferred 4-2-3-1 system is likely to match up with the Gunners as wingers Bruma and Mathieu Valbuena provide the majority of the creativity and spark to the side while former Arsenal target Yann M’Vila sits in midfield to help break up play.

Arsenal will take encouragement from the fact that defensively Olympiacos aren’t the strongest, but they have got it in them. Domestically, they have conceded only 12 goals from 25 league games and been beaten just once to top the table by 16 points ahead of their closest competitors.

Despite that, Arsenal seem to have been able to unlock defences more often that not in Europe and will have confidence as the better team on paper that they can get a result.

They will learn from last year’s games surely and with the fact that winning the competition is their only realistic route into European football next season, they know it’s all or nothing. The extra quality they have on the pitch will be enough to see them progress into the quarter-finals and get their revenge.

PREDICTIONS

Olympiacos 0-1 Arsenal
Arsenal 2-1 Olympiacos
(Arsenal progress 3-1 on aggregate)

Arsenal edge past Benfica to keep season alive beyond February

Arsenal’s season has survived beyond February after two goals in the final 25 minutes saw them come from behind against Benfica to progress into the last 16 of the Europa League.

The Gunners took the lead after a lovely reverse pass from Bukayo Saka found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who dinked it over the onrushing goalkeeper for his 12th goal of the season. A stunning free-kick from Diego Goncalves equalised just before half-time but the Gunners were in control for much of the game.

In the second half, a long ball from the goalkeeper should have been easily dealt with by Dani Ceballos but the Spaniard inexplicably tried to head the ball back to his keeper from just behind the halfway line, which Rafa Silva cut out before rounding Bernd Leno to put the Eagles ahead. Arsenal fired back just seven minutes later through Kieran Tierney, before Saka crossed for Aubameyang to head home three minutes from the end to seal the comeback win.

It was a big turnaround for the north London club and means that they keep their hopes alive of Champions League football for next season, and also means they have something to play for beyond this month.

Mikel Arteta’s side currently sit in 11th place in the Premier League after a horrid season which has seen them lose more games than they have won currently.

The performance showed signs of great character though, with many online on social media believing that once Benfica took the lead that Arsenal would crumble and crash out of the competition. It’s a sign of the progress they have made under Arteta this season, although it’s still fair to say that he has struggled so far as manager.

On the positive side for the Reds is that going forward they looked half decent once again. Saka got two assists and missed a sitter in the first half, Aubameyang scored twice and had another goal disallowed for a marginal offside which was created by a beautiful pass from loanee Martin Odegaard.

Defensively they looked shaky, with Benfica creating other chances aside from their goals and ultimately the Lisbon club let themselves down by trying to protect the lead far too early instead of just playing their regular game.

Arsenal will now look to push up the table in the Premier League when they take on Leicester City this weekend, who went out of the Europa League after a home defeat to Slavia Prague later on Thursday night.

Judging by Arteta’s team selections against Benfica however, he will be prioritising the Europa League – potentially seeing it as a more realistic path to not only a trophy but also to Champions League football next season.

Without it, Arsenal could have a blank European calendar in total come next season with even a top six position in the league looking a touch too far away for them right now.

Europa League last 32 predictions – Benfica vs Arsenal

It’s not just the Champions League that makes its return this week, the baby brother is back in town too as the Europa League comes back too with the round of 32, including the Champions League drop outs.

One of the stand out ties of the round sees Portuguese giants Benfica paired up with north London side Arsenal in a game that will see two sides expected to get to the latter rounds of the tournament face off with each other.

Both sides have struggled domestically this season and could potentially see the Europa League as their best chance at European football next season, so may take this game extremely seriously which would produce some high quality, entertaining games.

The Lisbon side currently sit in fourth place in the Primera Liga having struggled massively under Jorge Jesus this season, 13 points behind local and fierce rivals Sporting. After inconsistent form earlier in the campaign, the Eagles were struck down by a squad-wide bout of COVID-19 that saw over ten players forced to isolate following positive tests.

It means that they have won just three of their last nine games in all competitions but they’re now nearing full strength once again and will be confident of scoring goals against Arsenal’s inconsistent defence.

The Gunners on the other hand have seen a good run of form come to an end in recent weeks, but bounced back at the weekend with a comfortable 4-2 win over Leeds United. The result saw star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang get his first league hat-trick for the club and make it seven goals in his last ten games for the club following an extended spell without a goal.

While Aubameyang is likely to be rested from the start in these games, with Arteta more inclined to use his large squad and rest key players, the fact they will have that calibre of player available to bring off the bench if needed is a big factor in the tie.

Arsenal have shown that they have the capabilities to defend well when they need to, but they’ve struggled to balance good defending with good attacking for the most part this season. With that said, they should prove too much for the Portuguese side.

The likes of Darwin Nunez, Haris Seferovic, Everton and Rafa Silva have the ability to cause Arsenal problems if they all play but I’m willing to bet that the Benfica manager will opt for a different set up that will hinder his side and Arsenal will be able to come away with progression into the last 16.

PREDICTION:

Benfica 1-1 Arsenal
Arsenal 3-1 Benfica
(Arsenal progress 4-2 on aggregate)

Emile Smith Rowe is the Mesut Ozil replacement Arsenal needed

When a football club produces a special talent in their academy and they break into the first team, it’s always a proud moment for fans.

When Manchester United’s ‘class of 92’ came through together, there was excitement about what a group of academy lads could achieve together in the men’s game. Something similar is happening at Chelsea too, with a large group of academy graduates making up a portion of the first-team squad these days.

Over in north London, the Gunners have managed to produce two outstanding talents themselves and are bringing them to the fore together now.

Bukayo Saka broke into the side last season under Unai Emery but this season he has become a mainstay in the starting lineup and is arguably Arsenal’s best player right now. Watching him perform is nothing new at this point, but his new partner in crime has burst onto the scene in a big way.

With Mesut Ozil out of the squad and now a Fenerbahce player, Arteta has opted to employ youth into his teams and it has dragged him out of a rut. The biggest change has been the arrival of Emile Smith Rowe as a starter.

‘Croydon De Bruyne’ is a 20-year-old attacking midfielder, who has described both Kevin De Bruyne and Bruno Fernandes as players he looks up to. His introduction into the team has given everyone at the club a boost.

Fans are happy again, with Arsenal winning five of their last six games, but also the players on the pitch seem happier.

Arsenal v Newcastle United - FA Cup Third Round : News Photo

Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are scoring goals again, Saka is thriving on the right wing, the midfielders have options to pass the ball too and Arteta’s side look more like the one that won the FA Cup in August.

The youngsters impact has been immeasurable. His ability to receive the ball on the half-turn, in tight spaces, has allowed him to create more chances than anyone else in the league not named Bruno Fernandes since his debut.

He is capable of beating players with the ball at his feet as he showed in his assist for Saka’s goal against Newcastle in the league, he has a tidy finish on him as he showed against Newcastle in the cup and he’s more than willing to play with minimal touches.

While Ozil didn’t need his place in the squad replacing due to the fact he was left off the squad lists back in October, his role as creator in chief for the team has finally been replaced.

Arsenal have been linked with a move for Norwich’s Emi Buendia, but any notion that the deal was a priority has now been put on the back burner. Smith Rowe has arrived and he’s here to stay.

What is Arsenal’s Strongest XI?

Arsenal wrapped up an impressive transfer window with the shock signing of Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid for £45million, giving Mikel Arteta the midfield reinforcements he was desperate for.

After an on-and-off campaign last year that saw the Gunners finish in their lowest league position since 1994 but win the FA Cup, a very strong summer has seen Arteta’s side level up on the pitch.

They’ve started the season with three wins out of four, with the only defeat coming to reigning champions Liverpool at Anfield. They’ve progressed to the Carabao Cup quarter-finals too, having beaten Liverpool at Anfield on penalties en route too.

With the transfer window now closed, Arsenal’s squad is set until 2021 at least. So what is their strongest side now?

The first question is will Arteta stick with the 343 formation that he’s largely used so far, or does he revert back to his preferred 433 that he attempted to use during his initial games in charge. He switched to 343 for more defensive stability and it’s worked incredibly well but he’s said many times that his go-to style is 433, so for that reason I believe that he will now switch back.

Bernd Leno is the undisputed No.1 now, confirmed by the sale of Emiliano Martinez to Aston Villa. With a four man defence, three of the back four pick itself currently. Kieran Tierney is the best left-back at the club by a country mile while David Luiz and Gabriel Magalhaes should be the starting centre-backs too. Rob Holding has had a good start to the campaign but the extra protection in a back three has definitely helped him and if Arteta is to go to a back four, he’s the obvious option to miss out.

Liverpool v Arsenal - Carabao Cup Fourth Round : News Photo

Right-back is a bit more of a contest. Hector Bellerin has been the first-choice right-back for a while now but the emergence of Ainsley Maitland-Niles in that role has seen him given genuine competition for the first time. Cedric Soares is also an option but he’s comfortably behind the two of them in the pecking order in my mind. Personally, I think Maitland-Niles should get the nod. His energy and pace are on a par at the very least with Bellerin but also he has the edge when it comes to defending in one-on-one situations and with his final ball going forward.

The midfield three picks itself under Arteta too. Granit Xhaka has seen a huge upturn in his form and fortunes since Arteta’s arrival, with the Swiss international finding his feet in the Premier League by simplifying his game and being able to focus on just his own role because of the improved structure of the team. Alongside him, after an initially tough start, Dani Ceballos has cemented his position as a starting central midfielder. His ability to break the lines with dribbling and passing is unmatched in the squad and he has the quality in the defensive phase too to add balance.

Thomas Partey comes in and is an undisputed starter in midfield. He can dribble, he can break lines, he can pass, he can break up play and he can put in a shift. He’s comfortably among the best midfielders in the league now and will start any game he’s available for.

An issue with that midfield is that it lacks goals. Most top midfields in the world have goals from at least one player chipping in but that midfield will struggle to chip in with 10 goals between the three of them. That will be a detriment in tight games, but they will be hoping it can be supplemented in the attack.

Arsenal Training Session : News Photo

Willian’s signing on a free transfer from Chelsea has seen him displace record signing Nicolas Pepe from the starting line-up so far this season on the right wing and I think that will continue. The Brazilian started his Gunners career with three assists but has struggled to continue that impact. Despite that, his link-up with the midfield has been good and with Pepe continuing to struggle too he will likely continue as the starting right-winger for the time coming.

On the left-wing, Arteta has to play Bukayo Saka. The young academy graduate has come on leaps and bounds in the last 12 months and especially under Arteta. Having played in several positions including right-wing, central midfield and even left wing-back, Saka’s best position for me is in the attacking third and therefore he should be played out wide. His weight of pass, dribbling abiity, pace, vision and quality in execution make him a better option than either Alexandre Lacazette or Eddie Nketiah.

Up front, obviously it’s captain Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang. Mikel Arteta has had an obsession with using Aubameyang on the left to give him a chance to make runs from out-to-in and it has worked largely. But he is one of the world’s best centre forwards and needs to play there. When the other options are Lacazette or Nketiah, and you have good options out wide too then it’s a no brainer.

England’s New Golden Generation

When Euro 2020 was postponed this summer until 2021 due to Covid-19, not many countries would have been as excited by the prospect as England.

Gareth Southgate’s team were already being classed as one of the favourites for the tournament, with the ex-Middlesbrough boss still riding the wave of momentum following the World Cup semi-final run in Russia.

Along with the obvious competition of France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Belgium, England were heading into the competition with one of the better squads and with an established core ready for another big push towards their first international title since 1966.

Now though, they have even more reason to be excited. Despite an abundance of options already, the extra time will allow Southgate to look at his younger Lions for a place in the senior squad.

Players like Dean Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were already all in and around the squad despite all being under 23 years old. They’ll now surely have company from others even younger.

Mason Greenwood, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka have all taken their chances with the first team since the Premier League restarted in June – arguably each of their team’s best performers.

Greenwood, 18, has been lining up on the right wing of a front three alongside Rashford and Anthony Martial at Manchester United and has scored three goals in his three starts so far. His exceptional quality with both feet was on show as he scored twice against Bournemouth in United’s 5-2 win. But more than that is the clear improvement physically. The Athletic reported that he added 3kg of muscle over lockdown to fill out yet he hasn’t lost any pace or agility and is now able to work better with his back to goal, linking play well with the midfield and holding the ball up against a defender where necessary.

England XI made up on players 23 and under

Foden, 20, has been on the radar for a long time now but it seems Guardiola is now ready to trust him with a regular role in the starting line-up. The academy graduate has scored four goals since the restart, including against Arsenal and champions Liverpool in a man of the match performance. His technical ability and quality has never been in doubt, while he’s always seemingly dealt well with defenders’ aggressive approach to Man City’s style of play. His issue was playing time, something cited by Southgate, and it seems that may be about to be solved.

At Arsenal, Bukayo Saka has been the stand-out performer under Mikel Arteta. He has started every game bar one since the restart and recently scored his first Premier League goal against Wolves. His versatility has seen him play in several positions but his performances haven’t dipped throughout and his passing and ball carrying have constantly stood out. His new contract at the club will likely see his regular minutes in the first-team secured for the coming season too.

With those three adding to the current core, England also have the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Joe Gomez, Brandon Williams, Jude Bellingham, Fikayo Tomori, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Declan Rice, James Maddison and Mason Mount all playing regular minutes at the top level and all 23 years old or younger.

With the likes of Jordan Henderson, Harry Maguire, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling all almost guaranteed to be involved as the senior members of the squad England are in a terrific position to push forward. The question marks are seemingly over whether the manager will be capable of getting the best out of this group of players and bring success to England again but there are no doubts whatsoever that the talent is there.

Why Bukayo Saka Was Right To Sign A New Deal at Arsenal

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.

Arsenal FC v Sheffield United - Premier League : News Photo

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.