This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Bukayo Saka endured a difficult night as Arsenal lost 1-0 to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Monday.
The young winger played from the start as Unai Emery’s men blew the chance to move into third in the Premier League.
His most noticeable contribution perhaps came in the first half, as he burst into the box and appeared to be fouled by centre-back John Egan. Referee Mike Dean, however, saw differently and booked the 18-year-old for simulation.
Replays showed that there was no contact and Ian Wright claimed after the game that he was “waiting” to be touched by Egan so he could hit the deck.
Per WhoScored, the teenager had 42 touches of the ball and completed five dribbles but his final product was lacking.
Saka did not have a shot on goal, while his pass completion rate was just 70%.
He was also dispossessed once and failed to make a single tackle or win an aerial duel.
Saka was ploughing something of a lone furrow on the left flank.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the only man ahead of him and even he had just one shot on goal throughout the 90 minutes.
What Saka needs is a playmaker through which everything can be built; the winger could then get in behind, or choose to come short and collect the ball at the beginning of an attack.
As it is, he struggled against the Blades because he simply didn’t have the support he needed.
It is all very well completing dribbles but if you haven’t got anyone to pass to at the end, there is precious little point in even making the run.
Perhaps Alexandre Lacazette’s return to fitness will help; he could always be restored to the starting XI alongside Aubameyang, and having both on the field would give Saka two targets to hit instead of one.
One thing is for sure, though; he can ill-afford another performance like the one he put in on Monday.