Arsenal attacker Bukayo Saka proving Unai Emery made a mistake last season

This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…

Arsenal have used pre-season as a way of embedding the younger members of their squad into the team.

Freddie Ljungberg’s promotion means it’s no surprise to see this happen, especially after leading the U23 side last season, but a number of them are already proving to be key.

Eddie Nketiah has three goals in pre-season, scoring twice against Fiorentina whilst also bagging the winner against Bayern Munich.

Joe Willock was another to score against the Italians but it’s Bukayo Saka who could now have Unai Emery ruing judgement calls he made last season.

On the chalkboard

Saka has become one of the most talented young players rising through the Gunners’ ranks after scoring 14 times and picking up 12 assists in all competitions at youth level last term.

It was a breakthrough season for the youngster who made first-team appearances in the Europa League whilst also appearing as a substitute in the Premier League.

The 17-year-old, who doesn’t turn 18 until September, has shown tremendous strides and even scored against Colorado Rapids in their opening pre-season encounter.

He was a threat down the left and proved the same against Fiorentina, picking up a match rating of 8/10, the same as two-goal Nketiah, from Football London.

Arsenal’s promising starlet was exceptional but he’s proven in the space of a few games why it was a mistake to not play him more regularly at senior level last term.

The fact is that he’s shown the ability and willingness to beat a man that was all too rare for the north London side throughout 2018/19.

They lacked many wide options with Alex Iwobi being the only direct winger in the squad. For a club like the Gunners, his numbers were particularly average, scoring just three times and claiming six assists.

As a result, Emery was forced into utilising wing-backs to provide the width.

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However, Saka is a player who could have provided this in a more attacking sense and despite his tender age, it was a considerable mistake from the Spaniard not to play him.

His fresh energy, direct nature and ability to score would have made him a threat for most full-backs in the Premier League.

If the Islington outfit continue to be unsuccessful in their pursuit of Wilfried Zaha, there would be far worse options than starting Saka on the opening day of the new term.

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