What does ‘World Class’ mean & could Saka be headed there? (Opinion)

I wrote an article recently about the potential of Bukayo Saka, and I noticed in the comments, the difference of opinion on what is “WC” (world class)?

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.

Consistency

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.

Top opponents

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?

Ability

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.

Mentality

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?

ThirdManJW

Tags Bukayo Saka Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

30 Comments

  1. RSH says:

    Good article and I agree on all these criteria. I think I just personally reserve “world class” for the best of the best in these categories. I think Auba ticks all these boxes for example, but Lewandowski and other players are even better in all these aspects. It’s just personally for me when I say world class i’m usually talking about the best 2-3 players in a position. It’s essentially all semantics but I usually subscribe “top class” to players I think are amazing but just below the best of the best of the best.
    Saka can be whatever he wants to since he’s 19 and is doing so well. I’m a fan of Arteta not forcing him to play every game and letting him grow. No rush for the kid. He’s gonna inevitably be a great player.

    1. ozziegunner says:

      👍 By the way, take a look at the young players Liverpool and Manchester City had on show in the Caribau Cup.

    2. Billyghar says:

      I personally think he will hit a plateau eventually, very rare case that Arsenal can develop a you player into a world class player and if they do (fabregas, van persie et al) they will end up leaving as Arsenal is about making profits not caring about the fans feelings imo.

  2. Rory johnson says:

    He definitely has the quality to become WC, so composed for his age, with no glaring weaknesses, and hes very consistent too. However some players do just peak early and don’t quite break into that bracket, let’s hope he manages it, I’m quite confident 👌👌

  3. Moses Kundu says:

    Yes Saka is a world class player and since he is able to play many roles Manager Arteta should fix him in his starting lineup he can play no 10.

    1. jon fox says:

      I do broadly much agree with this fine article I would also put the ability to stay fit as a key criterion to go alonside TMJW’s other key elements of WC. It may seem obvious but is is surprising how many call so and so WC, when he is hardly ever fit!

    2. jon fox says:

      Moses, you post is precisely the sort of wrong thinking that makes assessing a truly world class player so difficult. Saka is definitely talented with a mature attitude and may or may not one day become world class.
      BUT RIGHT NOW , HE IS MILES AWAY FROM BEING SO AND IS NOT EVEN A GUARANTEED PICK FOR ARSENAL. IF he truly were WC, he would never be dropped.
      Your excitable hype is not helpful and actually puts more pressure on both him and the club, which both could do without. Please think more deeply before claiming a good player as WC NEXT TIME, IF YOU TRULY LOVE OUR CLUB.

      1. Shone says:

        He did not say his a WC player “could Saka be the next Gunner to join that elite group?”…..his words not mine.

        Que cera cera.

  4. Slim Gunner says:

    Saka is an exceptional talent and definitely gonna be a world class… Away at leicester he was d actor……

    1. Sean Williams says:

      I really like Saka, but to infer he is World Class or heading that way is fantasy. I wish him the best future but to associate him with the greatest of players is not true or fair.

  5. Grandad says:

    Well said RSH.If we take the Premier League in isolation,how many truly World Class players are there?Allison, VVD, Liverpool, Sterling,KDB ,Man City.Until last season I would have put Auba just below that level,but like Sterling, what he lacks in technical ability, he more than makes up for in terms of pace and finishing.Of the younger players,Rashford and Foden could become World Class, and let’s hope Saka and Martinelli get to that level during their careers at Arsenal.

  6. Grandad says:

    I forgot about Mane of Liverpool who I feel is slightly better than Salah.

    1. RSH says:

      Haha was also thinking Mane too. I also rate him slightly higher than Salah too. Liverpool are so lucky to have both of them.

    2. Shone says:

      They both have their srenghts

      Mane uses his rugedity to his advantage yeah

  7. Martin says:

    This boy is already world class, he should start in the Premier League for Arsenal because we don’t have better and in his best position left wing and Auba in his best position central striker

    1. Shone says:

      Saka should be rested…not dat his not fit, but to see d game from the sidelines. It helps think crazy idears dat can damage d opponent. I played soccer so i understand that code. Coaches know dis, but most fans will be like wtf!

  8. Declan says:

    No matter how one defines world class, Saka certainly ain’t it (excuse the slang) he’s a kid with a bright future but is nowhere near Ronaldo, Messi, Pele, many more I could mention, even Aubamayang and Kane at a push, but Saka not even headed there yet.

    1. Shone says:

      Hes on the right part…a good coach will really help like MA develop him to a WC.

      Can remember Mikel Obi….he finished 2nd to messi twice at the u20 world cup and the olympics., then morhinho came and changed him to a DM. Now i can see d gap… there not on d same level again

  9. Adajim says:

    A brilliant article and in the pool of our squad, we can only point fingers at AUBA, Saka, Pepe, Manghalese and KT has potential to become one, it’s all depends on how they want to improve. For example, Pepe, he is not stepping up his game and will be out of starting 11 for a long while, I’ll even give Saka a nod at rw over him. Am dissapointed at him

  10. Speedy says:

    Saka should just add some pace like some few more yards and his arsenal is complete

  11. Kobin says:

    It’s too early to say. A lot of “bright” young players grew up to be ordianary or flops. Pato, Balotelli, Mikel, Macheda the likes. If you can remember any, add more. Saka? only time will tell.

  12. Sue says:

    One thing I do know is….he’s a joy to watch!

    1. Shone says:

      And his going to bring more joy, rest assured…his getting a goal soonest against a big team.

  13. Dan says:

    World class is simple – take the position he plays in and asks is he one of the best in the world in that position
    As he’s not even in England Squad answer is he’s got some way to go

    1. ozziegunner says:

      👍 Exactly right, Dan.

  14. Bad Ebening says:

    To me a world class player means he is top 5 in his position. For example, Lewandowski, Messi, CR7, KDB, Kroos, Sergio Ramos etc

    1. Shone says:

      If his determing he will get there….he has to know what he really wants…i regular player or a WC. But the reality is dat we re in d present….lets enjoy the game and stock the fridge😉

  15. Pamela Sandra says:

    This is a very good artical which can make fans understand the types of players in there teams more especially the Orzil fans who are bleming Arteta every time. And it gives the scouts a clear work and road map to know which players to bring that can make the WC. It even doesent come cheaply, it means the club owners have to spend in order to get some of these talents.

  16. daroin says:

    It’s a good question, I use term in two senses depending on what I’m trying to do.

    First there’s loose and permissible that means something like “could (theoretically) be an consistent starter for any team in the world”. Cazorla and Silva would be world-class players in this sense, but Mata wouldn’t, so it’s a more of an
    convenient way of speaking rather than using phrases like “top,top,top (add as many tops as you need) player”

    Second sense is strick and restrictive in which you try to find some more objective standards to narrow players down to few of the best. There’s some dispute what those standards are, some of
    the suggested ones are: ability, consistancy, trophies won, comparison to others that play same position, big game performance etc.

Comments are closed