Bukayo Saka is not done yet
Once, Saka’s best potential was as a leftback. His dynamism, decision making and ball delivery made him remarkable in open space with the ball. Coaches thought that while he was good at many things on the ball, he was not exceptionally blessed with the best technique in limited space or the power and pace to become an exceptional winger. He could be a decent winger, for sure, but not a worldclass one and Arsenal needed as many world-class players as it could get.
However, Bukayo Saka’s potential creativity, decision-making and spatial intelligence on and off the ball had been ignored. Throughout this season, he and Kieran Tierney have been the most creative players, combining with others, bringing them into the game and laying off crosses and cutbacks on a plate for them to waste. This maturity and ability to impose himself — huge traits for a teenager — had also been ignored. And it took Mikel Arteta just some time for him to unlock these.
At right wing, the 19-year-old has shown many flashes of real quality. He has been asked to become a decisive, goalscoring inside-forward and the brilliant young man has taken it in his stride. Already blessed with good ball-striking (an essential trait at the top level and why his crosses are so good) and exceptional intelligence, Saka has been taking on his man, beating him, combining well, making runs and working hard defensively.
At Brighton and Aston Villa, he’s shown that he can hold his own against hulking defenders physically and while not the fastest, difficult to outpace on the ball. This is still a footballer learning the game in a new position in a teenager’s body. Saka’s physical potential is still there, glaring as day. His mobility and low centre of gravity allows him to access elite winger traits like dribbling in or out and can make him a small, dynamic runner like Sadio Mane at his peak.
Saka’s creativity on the right has been more limited than on the left but that can be fixed with time, after all, he’s barely played anything more than ten games in his new position. Already showing strength, resilience, movement and ingenuity beyond his years, Saka is not done yet with his progress. He will become more influential and comfortable on the right. And we will start to see the creative leftside Saka on the right wing more. That will be the final evolution of the youngster: a complete inside-forward capable of giving assists and scoring the goals.