If Arsenal’s teenage sensation Bukayo Saka starts in the FA Cup third round tie against Blackpool, which he is expected to, then he could well stake a serious claim for a regular place in Unai Emery’s starting XI, especially considering the circumstances at the club.
The 17-year-old appears to be no flash in the pan, nor a one-hit wonder. He made his first appearance for the Gunners as a substitute in the Europa League game against FC Vorskla, coming on for Aaron Ramsey, before making his first ever start for the club in the same competition just two weeks later against FK Qarabag.
It was in his first start for the Gunners that he had the Emirates crowd on the edge of their seats, and very nearly became the youngest European goalscorer in the club’s history with a number of efforts that had the keeper scrambling.
As a result of his showing, and his cameo performances since that game against Qarabag, that another solid match from Saka would surely make Emery consider the youngster as a valid option for his first-team on a weekly basis.
Whilst, in isolation, you may argue that a few good performances from a 17-year-old shouldn’t merit him becoming a regular feature in the side, the form of those who play in similar positions to him is a concern for fans of the north London side and should also be a concern for Emery.
Saka can play on either wing, but prefers to cut in from the right flank. Some of the names that currently start ahead of him at the Emirates are Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey; if he is to compete with these three for a starting place, it could come sooner than he expects.
Mkhitaryan has been extremely poor this season. The Armenian international has scored just four goals in the current campaign, with two of them coming in the same game, whilst he has been the source of annoyance for Arsenal fans who have grown tired of the 29-year-old’s poor end product – the same can be said of Iwobi, who’s final ball is particularly woeful.
The form of the aforementioned duo, coupled with the fact that Ramsey is set to leave at the end of the season, should give Saka hope that a good performance against the Seasiders may plunge him into Emery’s thinking for the second half of the season.