Football

Smiling Saka wants end of season happiness with Arsenal and England

Gareth Southgate absorbed public pressure and stuck with his guns, persisting with Bukayo Saka in his starting eleven. The Arsenal youngster has repaid the faith and continues to deliver in crunch moments for the Three Lions.

Against Ukraine, he delivered a telling performance. He was the architect of Harry Kane’s opener before hitting the back of the net himself as England cruised to a 2-0 victory. The confidence of the 21-year-old continues to increase and he is harbouring greater ambitions.

As it stands, Saka has 12 goals and 10 assists to his name in Arsenal’s pursuit of the elusive Premier League title. The Gunners are inching closer to their target and the Greater London native wants to finish it on a high.

“Football is fun and it’s always fun. I just hope the happiness can continue to the end of the season,” the exciting winger remarked.

Southgate appreciates ‘ruthless’ Saka

Leading Arsenal to the Premier League title would be a dream come true for the youth academy graduate. The change in fortunes at the Emirates have coincided with improvement from Saka, on and off the pitch.

England manager, Gareth Southgate observed the change and was quick to reflect on it. He admitted that the improved productivity has helped his charge change his mentality. But shared that as he combines his skill with the required mental tenacity, Saka can fulfil his ambitions.

The 52-year-old manager had first seats to his slumped shoulders after missing the penalty against Italy in the European Championships. And is now seeing his renaissance not just with the Three Lions but also with the Gunners.

“I think when he is in front of goal he plays with real belief and that’s evident with his club and the games with us,” Southgate told reporters.

“You expect him to score now when he goes through. It was a mentality shift, he always had the technique.

“To be a top wide player you need the goals and assists, and he has delivered that all season. His hunger and humility has put him on a good path and he has all the attributes to improve and learn. That’s how he’s wired.”

Long way to go for Saka

England claimed the maximum points against Italy and Ukraine, the toughest test they will have in their Euro 2024 qualifications. Saka’s performances caught everyone’s fancy with player-turned-pundit Paul Merson sharing rave reviews.

The Arsenal great hailed him as a ‘big moment player’ whose performances define the outcome of the match. Merson pointed at his duel with Vitalii Mykolenko and how he overcame it to setup Kane for the opener.

Bukayo Saka

Reflecting on Arsenal’s star pupil, Merson admitted that Saka does not have the best statistics but looking deeper, his contributions are what make the difference.

“Saka is a big moment player, and he produces at crucial times in big football matches,” Merson chimed in on Sky Sports.

“He’s not the player that gets a hat-trick against a side bottom of the league or he’s not grabbing the seventh goal in a 7-0 win. At Arsenal, he’s getting the first goal, the equaliser or the winner. He’s getting assists at crucial moments.”

“There are players that will do a lot of things in games, but they won’t be in the most important part of the game. Saka does do that, however, on a weekly basis,” the 55-year-old shared.