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Arsenal run-in is no dead rubber for Bukayo Saka with spot in England’s Euros squad up for grabs

·2-min read
 (Pool via REUTERS)
(Pool via REUTERS)

On paper, Arsenal’s remaining Premier League games may look like a series of dead rubbers - but try telling that to Bukayo Saka.

During a miserable season for Arsenal, the teenager has been a rare bright spark and he is determined to finish the campaign on a high.

Saka is hungry to earn a spot in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for this summer’s rescheduled Euros and his performance on Sunday against West Brom will have done his chances no harm at all.

The 19-year-old was deployed at left-back and he excelled there, terrorising West Brom’s right side and assisting Emile Smith Rowe for the Gunners’ opening goal.

Time and time again, Saka got in down the left and, had some of his team-mates had slightly bigger feet, a few of his drilled crosses could’ve resulted in at least two or three more assists.

“He’s a kid who has the intelligence to understand different positions,” said Mikel Arteta. “Today we asked him to play [left back] because of how West Brom set up, and we believed that we could exploit his qualities there.

“He still has things to learn obviously defensively because it’s been a while since he played in that position, but I think he had the right approach to it. That’s the first and most important thing. And then his quality defines a lot of moments.”

For the majority of this season, Saka has been deployed as winger - either on the left or right - but he showcased his versatility against West Brom.

The teenager slotted seamlessly in at left-back and he was still Arsenal’s most dangerous player going forward.

That will surely have not gone unnoticed by Southgate, who will be acutely aware of the benefits of having a versatile player like Saka in his England squad.

In tournament football, having players who can fill in elsewhere is a valuable commodity and Saka’s qualities means he can operate in a number of positions.

AP
AP

Watching Saka shine at left-back on Sunday made you wonder if Arteta shouldn’t have shifted him there sooner given Kieran Tierney’s injury.

Hindsight is, of course, a wonderful thing - and West Brom’s defence is not as robust as Villarreal’s - but seeing Saka rampage up and down the left made you think how different things could have been.

But asked if he regretted not playing Saka there last Thursday, Arteta said: “No. I regret that Granit [Xhaka] could not start. That was my biggest regret because everything that we prepared, it was with him in that position.”

Either way, that defeat to Villarreal is in the past now and Arsenal and Saka can only look forward.

They have three games left of this disappointing season but, if he excels, it could be the start of an exciting summer for Saka.

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