Did Saka Deserve an England Call Up? By Dan Smith
I agree with Gareth Southgate’s view that long term Bukayo Saka’s best position will be in an attacking role. I can also understand why the England Manager feels there is no need to rush the development of the 18-year-old.
Southgate told the Metro: ‘He’s obviously with the Under-21s this time and I feel he’s more of an attacking player.
‘I know he’s played at left-back and he’s given good contributions there in an attacking sense certainly.
‘At the moment left wing-back, left side higher up the pitch, I know he’s played in midfield and on the right as well but that they would be his better positions. He’s a very exciting player.
‘It is still early for him but he’s a player we like and we are monitoring very closely.
‘Saka had a very good season with Arsenal, not in the team at the very end but really good season of progress and he’s a player we are watching very closely.’
There is enough pressure on the teenager in terms of the expectation and pressure from Gooners after his breakthrough season. A first cap would only heighten the spotlight on the youngster. The next step for his progression is handling this sudden attention and not letting it go to his head, that means he needs the right support network around him. Friends and family who don’t let him become despondent if his form drops and not think he’s better than he is, once the sponsorship and marketing deals come flooding in.
So, there are reasons why it’s best for the player’s mentality to remain in the Under 21.
I would understand that if you had to pick Saka ahead of the likes of Luke Shaw and Chilwell, but they are both injured. In fact, bizarrely in the latest Three Lions Squad, there isn’t one single left back.
In other words, Southgate has watched Arsenal performances and come to the conclusion that having no left back at all is better than giving an opportunity to someone who at least had a run of games in that position.
The English Coach has since admitted he might have to tactically change things to make up for our lack of options on the left. So, in other words he doesn’t want to play Saka there because he sees it as playing him out of position yet will end up playing someone out of position anyway.
International bosses can sometimes over-complicate things. Southgate’s job is to give his country the best possible chance of winning their next two fixtures, and that means selecting the best talent available to him.
As a man who has always promised to make selections based on form not reputations, it’s hard to fathom how he would rather have zero left backs over someone Arteta trusted.
It’s harsh on Saka because it’s basically saying his efforts this year have counted for nothing.
Southgate is basically saying he doesn’t recognise him as a full back so therefore he will be competing with the likes of Sterling and Sancho.
Yet starting Saka in defence in Iceland and Denmark doesn’t have to mean he has to stay there. It just means he’s our best option now. That’s Southgate’s job, to pick the best talent available to him at this moment.
It’s not like this is a World Cup or European qualifier. While not quite friendlies, there’s enough freedom to at least try a few things, especially when you consider how little time Southgate gets to have time with his squad.
He could have spent the week learning about Saka’s personality and temperament. With spaces in the squad freed up with injuries it was also a chance to cement Saka as an England International. As things stand, he is still eligible to play for Nigeria who I’m sure would find a place in their squad for Saka.
It’s long been felt that England lost Zaha to the Ivory Coast because they didn’t do enough to make the player feel valued, and Super Eagle fans have been quick to ask their nation to try and take advantage: “It’s becoming clear that Saka is not wanted by England. I would be surprised if he doesn’t play for the Super Eagles in the next international break,” Sani Datsama said on Twitter.
“Are we not having any match so we can quickly snap Bukayo Saka since the England team are ignoring him? If the media uproar becomes too much he would be invited under duress. I thought we had matches pending,” said another Twitter user.
Another Twitter user, @DeelightIk stated, “Welcome to Nigeria, Bukayo Saka. You will be adored by the most populous country in the world. Soccer is a god here and you will be god-like.”
Well Southgate in his own way has indicated that unless there’s a serious injury to a Sancho, Rashford or Sterling, then Saka’s not in his current plans.
Gooners, has Southgate made A mistake here? I still think Saka will play for England at a major tournament, but maybe I’m not as confident as I was a week ago…
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