It seems everyone has a different interpretation of it, and rightly so. It’s not something easily quantified. As there seemed to be some confusion from that article, I should clarify, that I don’t think Saka is world class, but he has the potential to be.
Now to get onto the difficult task of identifying the elements that make up a WC player.
It’s fair to say that the term gets overused a lot. Many a player has been described as such, and I think this primarily comes downs to people conflating the terms ‘WC form’, ‘World Class’, and ‘reputation’.
A player can have an unbelievably good few months or a whole season, and suddenly he’s dubbed amongst the best around, Which is wrong. Just think of the saying: Form is temporary, class is permanent. It means that anyone can be brilliant on their day, but it’s only the greats that can sustain that brilliance.
In regards to reputation, many confuse a big name, with quality, or what they did many moons ago. E.g. Ozil may have been WC player a long time ago, but has been very poor for many years now, and no top club will touch him (including Arsenal). He is still a big name in the world of football, and that is what confuses some into thinking he is still a quality player.
I wonder if we can come together as a collective, and decide on what WC is, definitively… There may be more, but for me, there are five minimum requirements for a WC talent.
Consistency, What the player brings in high pressured games, what the player does against the top teams, ability, and mentality.
This is the most important element of all. You can have all the ability in the world, and the right mentality, but if we’re only seeing good performances a handful of times per season, then what’s the point?
Equally, one can have a player who isn’t considered to have great ability, but who is a solid performer. Just think of Henderson of Liverpool. He isn’t spectacular, but is so consistent. Liverpool rely on him more than most in that team. I don’t expect a WC talent to be brilliant in every game, especially in England given how tough the league is, but I do expect them to be contributing a lot, around 75% of the time.
High pressured games
I would classify this as tough away games, semi-finals, and finals, and key games in regards to promotion/relegation/European qualification, derbies, etc. What is your so-called WC player doing in these types of fixtures? When the pressure is on, do they usually perform? When we need Auba to do something, he rarely fails us for example.
It’s all good and well looking quality against poor teams, but what happens when faced with the best of best? Does the player hide away, or shine against the likes of: Bayern, Barcelona, Juventus, Liverpool, Man City, Real Madrid, etc?
Does the player have great technical ability? Can he do things that others can only dream of? I love Messi, but I always feel that a great example is Ronaldinho, for being the best I have ever seen “ability” wise. He would pull off some insane tricks in games, that would have taken years of practice to master.
This is another extremely important element. What is the player’s will to win like? Does he train hard, and keep himself in top physical shape? Love him or loath him, Cristiano Ronaldo is the best example. Super healthy diet, trains hard, and keeps himself in top physical shape. Extremely determined to win every game, and score as many as he can. Drives his team on as well. He’s like a winning machine!
Sometimes we do have to factor in other external elements that can affect a player’s performance, e.g. Is the manager using the player in the correct position? What is the quality of team he is playing in? That said, a genuine WC talent would still shine through to a certain degree, even in a restrictive environment. Think of some of the deadwood that Cesc had to play with, yet he was still managing to put WC performances. He stood out like a sore thumb at times… In a good way!
To simplify it, what we should expect from a WC player is: Consistency, and performing when it matters. Aubameyang is currently the only one that fits the bill in our squad, and Leno isn’t far behind.
How do you define “World Class”? And could Saka be the next Gunner to join that elite group?