This article is part of Football FanCast’s Pundit View series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent quotes from journalists, pundits, players and managers…
Speaking after Arsenal’s comeback against Standard Liege on Thursday night, Freddie Ljungberg lauded Bukayo Saka’s inspirational performance.
The Gunners were staring down the barrel of a defeat to their Belgian counterparts when Saka crossed for Alexandre Lacazette to pull one back, before rifling in an effort from outside the box to equalise. And as per Sofascore, his 9.2 match rating was the highest of any player on the pitch, with his four key passes also being a game-high. The result secured the north London side’s place in the knockout stages of the competition, and perhaps more crucially, secured top spot too.
And after watching the teenager’s display, Ljungberg was quick to acknowledge the sizeable influence he had in turning things around for his side.
He said (as quoted by Sky Sports): “(Saka) was amazing. I think he was a bit upset with me before the game that he had to play wing-back and then full-back because he doesn’t like it so much! But no, he’s a tremendous talent and you could see it here again. His final ball and the last bit is always effective and there’s always an end product to his work.
“I felt sorry sometimes for our young players because a lot of them have not been on loan. So they haven’t got that exposure to play 90 minutes of men’s football for a longer period of time. But I think from those mistakes they won’t redo them and that’s invaluable for them and we won the group. Bukayo did tremendous to go back to that (playing wing-back).”
A starlet that shone particularly brightly under the reign of Unai Emery – his goal-scoring display at Eintracht Frankfurt earlier this season being a highlight for instance – he has to feel he may have more to gain under Ljungberg. The Swede coached him when the pair were with the U23s last season, and now that he has taken the helm for the time being for the senior side, the 18-year-old may feel this is his opportunity.
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The north London side appear to be blessed with a golden generation of talent, with the likes of Saka, Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Emile Smith Rowe, amongst others, all getting a taste of first-team football this season. They all have the perfect chance to make their name at the Emirates now.