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How Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka Became a Champions League Worthy Attacker

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Bukayo Saka’s rise in the last 3 years has been nothing short of remarkable. Since making his debut in 2018, he has risen from a promising youth prospect to a star player that English soccer fans of all clubs enjoy watching. At just 20 years old he has already won a domestic trophy and lost a European final with Arsenal, made his England debut, and played a key role in an international tournament. He has achieved a lot in a very short space of time, and the story of how he did it is one full of hard work, sacrifice and perseverance.

Career beginnings

Saka was born in Ealing, West London on 5th September 2001. His career started at his local amateur side Greenford Athletic where he performed well enough to be scouted by some of London’s top clubs. He spent a short time playing for Watford before joining Arsenal at the age of 7. He quickly progressed through the youth teams, often playing in teams of the age group above his own, impressing coaches with his speed, skill and technique. 

He signed his first professional contract on his 17th birthday and made his first-team debut two months later in the Europa League. He made his Premier League debut the following January and went on to earn a place on Arsenal’s bench for that season’s Europa League final. Although he didn’t manage to make it onto the pitch in the Gunners’ loss to Chelsea in that game, making the squad was a great achievement for a player coming from the academy.

Breakthrough season

The following season is widely regarded as his breakthrough campaign, he started the season in fine form, scoring his first professional goal against Eintracht Frankfurt in September. He also registered two assists in the Europa League game, leading to the first man of the match award of his career. He made his first Premier League start later that month and earned a place in the starting 11 after first-choice left-backs Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac picked up injuries. Although he had spent some time at left-back in the academy teams, it is not Saka’s best position, but he performed admirably, showing great maturity and diligence. Despite playing in a defensive role, he managed to retain his attacking threat, finishing the season with 4 goals and 12 assists in all competitions. 

Euro 2020

After signing a new contract and earning the number 7 shirt in 2020/21, Saka was selected by England boss Gareth Southgate as part of the Euro 2020 squad. Some fans were surprised by his inclusion, but he quickly silenced the doubters with some impressive performances that helped England reach the final. He was brought on as a substitute in the final against Italy but missed his team’s fifth penalty, handing the trophy to Italy. Despite the disappointing end, Saka earned a lot of praise for his performances in one of the world’s most prestigious tournaments. While this was a difficult experience for the young player, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has stated that this experience could be the making of him.

This season and beyond

Saka’s summer experience left many fans concerned that he might struggle for form this season due to the potential negative effects it might have on his performances, but they needn’t have worried. Saka’s incredible form this season has been one of the key factors in Arsenal’s progress. After a difficult start to the campaign, the Gunners are now chasing a Champions League spot, with online betting sites like Betway rating them as favourites ahead of Manchester United, Tottenham and West Ham. It’s still too early for Arsenal fans to make such forecasts, but if Saka continues to perform at such a high level, his team will have a great chance of reaching Europe’s premier club competition.

The young attacker has been linked with a move to Liverpool with reports that Jurgen Klopp is a big fan. Although Saka has spent most of his life at Arsenal, he has shown great ambition and drive in his short career so far, so it is difficult to imagine he won’t be playing Champions League football in the next five years, whether with the Gunners or elsewhere. His ideal scenario probably involves leading Arsenal back to Europe’s biggest competition and winning it, but don’t be surprised to see him at another club if the North Londoners are unable to match his ambition. As one of the most likeable characters in the world’s most popular sport, Saka is set for superstardom.