Opinion: Bukayo Saka deserves to win European Golden Boy award
The winger has achieved great success since his Arsenal debut in January 2019, including an England senior call up, FA Cup and Community Shield titles and is now a crucial part of Arsenal’s first team squad inheriting the number 7 shirt.
Saka’s versatility has been a real benefit to The Gunner’s, with Saka being played in a multitude of positions, including all down the left side of the pitch.
He made his debut under Unai Emery, but his first spell in the first team came at the start of Mikel Arteta’s reign.
An Arsenal defensive crisis thrust Saka into left-back, and as a natural left winger and teenager the pressure was truly on.
The young midfielder was forced into left-back as a first half substitutes during the 3-0 defeat to Manchester City in December 2019, after Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac sustained injuries in consecutive games.
His performances at left-back earnt him many praise and plaudits, and even some calls for him to be selected in Gareth Soutgate’s England European Championship squad despite not making a senior appearance.
The postponement of the championships may have dented Saka’s chances but he still deservedly earned the praise and opportunity to feature for the team and will now press on to try and earn his spot.
Saka has shown immense maturity for a player of his age, with a number of standout performances and in some games dragged The Gunners to victory.
His recent substitute performance against Sheffield United was one of his best performances, getting a goal [his first at Emirates Stadium] and being heavily involved in the other.
The wingers’ ability to take the ball and cause problems to opposition defences is one of his key attributes and strikes fear into the opposition.
He possesses the ability to take the game by the scruff of the neck and shows confidence and maturity beyond his years, and is one of the more important players in Arteta’s side.
Saka is against some top opposition and wouldn’t necessarily be considered a standout favourite for the award.
He didn’t achieve the same goals or assists as some of his fellow nominees, but it is his importance to his Arsenal team, and sharp rise to recognition and success which makes him a standout contender and a future footballing star.
His rise to stardom and first team football has eclipsed many of his fellow England youth teammates.
Callum Hudson-Odoi fell out of favour and form at Chelsea, partly due to a long-term injury.
Young England players have dominated much of the football world this past year, with five making the final 20 shortlist, four of them from the Premier League, and Jadon Sancho standing out in a rejuvenated Borussia Dortmund in Germany.
Phil Foden further cementing his place in Manchester City’s first team and Mason Greenwood breaking into the Manchester United first-team and making his England senior debut.
Erling Haaland transferred from Red Bull Salzburg to Dortmund in January 2020 and enjoyed an unbelievable season where he scored 44 goals and registered 10 assists in 40 appearances.
Haaland is the clear favourite for the award and there would be no complaints if he were to win.
His Dortmund teammate Jadon Sancho has also made the final shortlist, who also impressed in Germany and was linked with an expensive move to Manchester United which failed to materialise.