Bukayo Saka slipped under the radar when England’s Euros squad was named… but Arsenal’s versatile starlet once again rose to the occasion against Austria and showed he can play a big role in the Three Lions’ bid for glory
- Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka has enjoyed a brilliant week so far with England
- After earning spot in the Euros squad, he scored the winner in 1-0 win vs Austria
- The 19-year-old slipped under the radar as Gareth Southgate named his squad
- But Saka has put himself in with a strong chance of starting for England at Euros
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here.
It has been quite the week so far for Arsenal starlet Bukayo Saka and with the Euros on the horizon, he will be hoping that this is just the start of a summer he will cherish for the rest of his career.
As well as being shortlisted for Arsenal’s Player of the Season and PFA Young Player of the Season, he was also named in England’s 26-man party for the Euros before scoring his first ever goal for the Three Lions in a 1-0 victory over Austria.
And following his maiden England strike, Saka couldn’t contain his delight ahead of a massive few months in his embryonic career.
Bukayo Saka gave Gareth Southgate a selection headache after shining for England vs Austria
‘Yes, maybe I did when I first came in,’ Saka replied when asked if he felt star-struck being involved with England following the friendly win over Austria.
‘But now I’ve met the lads, I am more familiar with them. Things are much easier and I feel more at home when I come to camp.
‘The feeling of being selected for the Euros is already just amazing and then now to get my first goal is even better.
‘There’s just so many good things coming my way and I have to thank God for the blessings.’
Things change ever so quickly in football, and just a few days ago, there was some uncertainty over whether Saka would even make Gareth Southgate’s final cut for the delayed Euros.
But following a fine season for Arsenal, standing out as one of their go-to men in what turned out to be a nightmare campaign, and emerging onto the scene for England, he had done enough to convince Southgate to show faith in him.
And it’s no surprise why. The 19-year-old is not one to shy away from problems, and on so many occasions he dug Arsenal out of trouble last season and has already become a fan favourite at the Emirates.
Saka scored the only goal of the game as England overcame Austria 1-0 on Wednesday night
He has shown no signs of nerves after taking centre stage for Arsenal, and it’s no different with England.
His emergence for the Three Lions has been made even more impressive by the fact that he is competing for a spot with many other excellent forward options.
With the likes of Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard and Co all vying for a spot in England’s attack, the 19-year-old’s task certainly wasn’t a straight-forward one.
And given Lingard’s fine end to the season with West Ham – following his loan move from Manchester United – as they secured Europa League football for the first time, it seemed to nudge Saka out the reckoning ever so slightly more.
Saka, for his standards, endured a quiet end to the season as he started to burnout after a hectic season, and some had started to write him off for a place in Southgate’s Three Lions squad while the others were peaking at just the right time.
But Southgate had seen enough and Saka knew now was the time to show that he wasn’t in the squad just to make up the numbers.
Saka’s versatility and adaptability could come in handy for Southgate this summer at the Euros
And he did precisely that against Austria in his fifth cap for his country, scoring the winning goal in the 56th minute after reacting quickest to a loose ball in the penalty area from a tight angle.
Saka had been targeted for some rough treatment by Austria’s players on Wednesday but kept coming back for more, and looked a dangerous threat throughout at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.
And Southgate was full of praise for his youngster following the final whistle on Wednesday.
The England boss said: ‘He has got a lovely ability to receive in that traffic in the middle of the field. He is like a slippery eel getting away from those challenges.’
So Southgate knows exactly what to expect from him, and there’s no doubt he can shine whoever he lines up alongside this summer for England.
Saka has given Southgate a selection headache ahead of England’s opener at Wembley on June 13 against Croatia but even if he doesn’t get the nod in the curtain-raiser, you can expect him to get game-time at other stages in the tournament.
Saka’s fine form for Arsenal saw him earn a place in the Three Lions squad for the Euros
While we can talk about Saka’s ability all day long, his versatility and adaptability can make him a key man for England.
In his young career to date, Saka has time and time again shown that he can deliver the goods wherever he is deployed.
Right now, he is England’s most versatile player in the squad – having played in six different positions already in his first two full seasons with his beloved Gunners.
He has featured at left wing, right wing, left wing back, right wing back, left back and as a central midfielder.
Saka has already become Mr Dependable at such a tender age, and he is knocking on Southgate’s door for a starting berth at the Euros.
Whether or not Southgate gives Saka the chance to shine much on the European stage remains to be seen this summer, but there is no doubt that the teenager has a big future ahead of him for both club and country if he stays clear of injuries.
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