It has been a turbulent season for Arsenal.
They have already seen one change in manager, with Unai Emery relieved of his duties and the inexperienced Mikel Arteta coming in to replace him. The performances really haven’t been up to the required standards – they are currently in ninth place in the League, eight points behind Chelsea who occupy the last of those four Champions League qualification spots.
The emergence of Bukayo Saka, though, has been one of the main positives to take from this campaign. He has become an important member of the Gunners’ squad, starting 10 of the last 12 games in the Premier League, and his rise has been reflected in his Transfermarkt value. At the start of the campaign, he didn’t even have one, but it is now at £19.8m, which includes an £8.1m increase since December of last year.
Here, we take a look at three key factors influencing this surge…
Saka did make three appearances last season, making his full debut against Qarabag in the Europa League, but it was in the very first game of this year’s edition of that competition where he made his mark. Playing against Eintracht Frankfurt – the German side reached the semi-finals of the tournament during the 2018/19 campaign – he scored once and provided two assists in a 3-0 victory.
The 18-year-old was in stupendous form. He also managed five key passes, whilst he completed three of his attempted six dribbles to boot. That display saw him start the very next match, against Aston Villa, and from then on he has been a regular member of matchday squad.
That match against the Bundesliga outfit saw him feature on the left-wing, but that is a position that is already overloaded with options. Gabriel Martinelli and Reiss Nelson have already featured there this term, as has Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the club’s current top goalscorer – Saka was always going to have his work cut out displacing all of that group, irregardless his talent.
Freddie Ljungberg’s spell as caretaker-manager was short, but it gave him enough time to make one important decision – moving the teenager to left-back. With Kieran Tierney out injured and Sead Kolasinac continuing to fail to make an impression, Saka has made the position his own. Following the switch, Arsenal have lost just two of the 12 matches he has played in that position in the league. It hasn’t put an end to his attacking contribution, either – he has one goal and four assists in 15 matches in that role overall.
As it stands, Saka has just over one year left on his contract, meaning that he could negotiate with other sides before he even turns 20. There has been plenty of interest in his services, as well, with both Manchester United and Liverpool, the Premier League leaders, mentioned. Bayern Munich, too, are believed to have been keeping an eye on him.
That has led to the Emirates outfit pushing “extremely hard” to secure him to a new five-year deal. He currently earns £3,000-a-week, but the Gunners want to offer him a contract worth £35,000 every seven days. That is obviously a huge increase, and it shows just how desperate his current employers are to make sure he continues to blossom with them rather than elsewhere.