Tag Archives: Bukayo Saka.

Southgate exclusion of Arsenal youngster “utterly baffling”

The exclusion of Bukayo Saka from Gareth Southgate’s latest England squad has not garnered sufficient attention, owing to the fiasco surrounding Harry Maguire and his exploits in Mykonos.

Having been found guilty of repeated bodily harm, Maguire was subsequently withdrawn only four hours after the original squad announcement.

In an utterly baffling decision, one name is a glaring absence from the 23-man squad: that of Bukayo Saka.

Saka enjoyed a breakout season in 2019/20 for the Gunners in what proved a turbulent and tumultuous campaign for the club. Finishing with 12 assists across all competitions, the 

18-year-old firmly established himself as one of the Premier League’s future stars. 

His rise to prominence was deservedly rewarded with a new four-year contract in July, as well as change of shirt number from 77 to 7, one that Arsenal traditionally reserved for academy graduates who excelled in the first team. What made Saka’s performances all the more impressive were that they came from all over the pitch. Under Mikel Arteta, Saka has played at left-back, left and right winger and even appeared in central midfield. 

This brings us to Southgate’s squad selection and his curious decision to select no recognised left-back. If the Three Lions boss wanted someone who is familiar in that role, he would have called up Luke Shaw or Ben Chilwell. Their absences are a sign that Southgate is willing to experiment with his formation and personnel for the upcoming UEFA Nations League games against Iceland and Denmark. 

Why then, was a player as versatile as Saka, left out of the picture?

Arsenal’s Hale End graduate has played as a full-back in both three and four-man systems at club level, possessing the required footballing IQ to interchange positions with a knowledge that belies his youth. His understanding of how his role in the England side would alter depending on Southgate’s preferred formation makes Saka the ideal starter on the left-hand side of defence.

When asked about Saka’s absence, Southgate replied that he “was watching him very closely”. This is undoubtedly true but perhaps the best way to judge a young player’s suitability for international football is to throw him into the firing line and see if he is able to perform under pressure. 

Southgate, who is an exceptional judge of a player’s character, would have been able to gauge the Arsenal youngster’s readiness to make the step up far more accurately by spending time with the player in person than through the feedback of assistants and contacts elsewhere. Saka would have also benefitted individually from the opportunity to experience the senior setup. He is yet to be officially capped by England after featuring for their age-group teams from U16 up to U19 level. 

Southgate and his staff may not have wanted to rush Saka into the England team after such an eventful season for the Arsenal starlet. However, the inclusion of other players who excelled at club level last season such as Mason Greenwood, Kalvin Phillips and Phil Foden makes the exclusion of Saka a perplexing one.

Zac Campbell

The Pub, The Arsenal, Saka, Martinelli & Aubameyang contracts

Who is off to the pub today?

I’m giving it a miss.

Nothing to do with my worries about Covid19 (I have no worries) and more to do with me not being bothered to wander round the streets of London looking for a boozer that is allowing people in.

Many pubs will remain shut, and those that are open will be at around 70% capacity. And that is actual capacity, not football day capacity where there can be hundreds in a pub which has a capacity of less than 100.

If you’ve booked your table for 2 hours, fair play. If you haven’t, go and get a few cans and sit in Finsbury Park, Highbury Fields or whatever open space is closes to your house.

Personally, I will be in my garden. The garden bar will be open. BBQ on. The game on my outdoors TV. And at £12 for 15 bottles of Amstel, plenty of money will be saved by all.

Out of nowhere yesterday Arsenal announced a new deal for Gabriel Martinelli. It came out of nowhere.

“Pay parity with Saka” a mate mentioned. And that’s probably true.

In Martinelli and Bukayo Saka, Arsenal have two of the most exciting teenage attacking talents in Europe.

It makes complete sense to ensure both players are on similar money, with similar length contracts. These two are our future.

Hopefully within the next week new contracts for the future is followed up with a new contract for the present. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Reports began to leak that Aubameyang is on the verge of agreeing a 3-year deal with a salary “up to £250k”.

This would represent a 2 year extension, with his current deal having 1 year to run.

It will be an interesting deal when it comes down to the money.

Not too long ago the squad agreed a 12.5% temporary reduction in wages for the 2020/21 season. The reduction would be halved if Arsenal make the Europa League.

Aubameyang’s new deal will surely take into account the squad agreement.

So if it is agreed he is to be on £250k a week, he would immediately take the 12.5% reduction, which would take him down to about £220k.

That would be the sensible action to do to ensure squad happiness.

It would be wrong if Arsenal have asked players to take a reduction, and then give Aubameyang a big new deal with no reduction.

You would be annoyed if you were a player sitting there on £100k a week, now earning £12.5k less, then seeing a teammate, who was already paid more than you, receive an extra £70k a week.

Arsenal will have to be clever with the deal, negotiating incentives with Aubameyang. A pay rise in 12 months time. Even a nice signing on fee or end of contract loyalty bonus making up the missing salary.

Today it is Wolves away.

A tough game but 3 points is essential.

Get to together with your mates. Have some beer. Watch The Arsenal. Stay alert. Stay safe.

Keenos

Arteta rotates The Youth

“Why is he not playing Martinelli” was tweeted countless times on Saturday.

“Saka on the bench, it’s a disgrace” was another.

Following the starting XI announcement, everyone had an opinion on who was playing, who shouldn’t and who was not in the squad. It is only natural.

This then led to the rumour mill kicking off. “Is Arteta teaching Martinelli a lesson”. This all follows up on Matteo Guendouzi being “dropped” following an alleged incident in Dubai.

The truth is, defence aside, Arsenal have very few injury worries.

Prior to Everton, only Kieran Tierney, Calum Chambers and Cedric Soares were on the walking wounded list.

Of the 26 players to have played in the Premier League for Arsenal this season, 21 were fit and ready to go (2 injured, 3 sold or out on loan). With a match day squad of 18, 3 players were always going to miss out.

Games are coming thick and fast at the moment. We are playing twice a week for the forceable (although we have the weekend off with no game v Man City – although we then play Portsmouth in the FA Cup on Monday).

Arteta needs to rest and rotate. To keep players fresh. To keep them injury free.

Take Bukayo Saka.

Saka is an 18-year-old kid in his first full season of mens football. He had started 6 games in a row for Arteta. It has pretty much been a game every 3 or 4 days for him, winter break aside.

Before Everton, he had played Sunday & Thursday. 90 minutes against both Newcastle and Olympiakos. It was only natural that with Saed Kolasinac returning, Arteta would take the opportunity to Saka a break.

Think of the challenge that injured Kolasinac. Had that happened to Saka, and he be out for the season, many of those moaning that he did not start would then moan that he was being over played.

Arsenal have a lot of very talented youngsters. They can not all play at once. They can not all be in the squad at once.

Up front is a perfect example of this.

We have senior players in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe. These are backed up by Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah.

That is 7 attacking players, all of whom were fit against Everton.

With 3 starting, it would be ludicrous to have 4 on the bench. By the time you pick a goal keeper that leaves just 2 places on the bench left for defenders and central midfielders.

Most teams usually go with 2-2-2 on the bench.

Two defenders (one central, one full back). 2 central midfielders, and two attacking players.

Once Arteta had gone with Nketiah upfront, Lacazette was always going to be on the bench. This left space for one more attacking player on the bench.

With Saka in the squad as left back and left winger, it was a straight choice between Martinelli and Nelson.

On this occasion Arteta went for Nelson.

And you can fully understand the Spaniards thinking by picking Nelson.

Nelson provides something that no one else does. He is a right footed winger who gets chalk on his boots.

Martinelli, meanwhile, creates little and is better suited down the middle. In Aubameyang and Lacazette, Arteta had two other striking options in his squad alongside Nketiah. Nelson simply gives more balance to the match day squad.

Also missing out were Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock, and again it is completely understandable.

The defensive options on the bench against Everton were Sokratis and Saka.

If Bellerin went down injured, Mustafi would shift to right back, and Sokratis would come into the middle (or vice versa). And if Kolasinac got injured, Saka would come on.

That left no space for Maitland-Niles as a defensive option.

Moving into midfield, Arteta went for Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi on the bench. His more senior pair.

Had he gone for Willock or Maitland-Niles, we would have had the same stories as post-Dubai. That Guendouzi had been dropped for attitude problems.

Instead it is Maitland-Niles not in the squad, and rumours circulating about Arteta being unhappy with attitude.

Willock also lost out, with Dani Ceballos starting for his 2nd Premier League game in a row.

Whenever a player is left out, stories will circulate as to why. Usually the simplest answer the truest. That the manager is simply rotating and resting.

Expect more changes for Thursday against Olympiakos, and more again for the FA Cup game against Portsmouth.

Keenos