Saka: I’m not carrying Arsenal. Carney: Yes you are
Bukayo Saka can deny it all he wants but he is “carrying Arsenal” according to one former Gunners winger.
The 19-year-old has continually stepped up to the plate for Arsenal this season to earn himself Young Player of the Year at the London Football Awards.
He was at it again on Thursday evening, singlehandedly dragging Arsenal back into their Europa League semi-final tie at Villarreal.
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Saka earned the penalty which gave the visitors a vital away goal in the 2-1 defeat, giving Mikel Arteta’s side hope of overturning the deficit on home soil next week.
Speaking ahead of the game, Saka was quick to stress the team ethic when asked about his impressive form. “I don’t think that I’m the player that’s carrying Arsenal,” he said. “In football, it is 11 men. I don’t think that I can do anything just by myself. It’s a team sport.”
However, according to former Arsenal and England winger turned pundit Karen Carney, the teenager is not only carrying the Gunners, he has been doing it for 18 months.
Speaking on 5 Live Sport, Carney said Saka is already Arsenal’s go-to player in moments of need. And she claimed he should be Gareth Southgate‘s for this summer’s Euros, too.
“He started in the Europa League probably last season,” said Carney. “He just pulls out magic at the key moments. For a young player to drag the senior players through and to be the one that we’re gonna rely on him, he’s gonna dig us out of a hole when we need it, is unbelievable.
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“What he’s got going for him, he’s so versatile. He could play left-back, he could play right wing, left wing, in a ten, he can play anywhere and if you go into tournament football, you’ve got to have those type of players that can do that. And he’s resilient and can play game after game after game and doesn’t even look tired.”
Despite being a shining light for Arsenal, Saka has found himself overshadowed by the likes of Phil Foden and Mason Mount when it comes to the England reckoning.
He made his debut for the Three Lions against Wales in October but has yet to make an appearance for Southgate’s side in 2021.
And Carney believes the lack of international recognition is solely down to the form of his Arsenal team-mates.
“He’s carrying Arsenal time and time again, he’s the one that literally, you want an assist, he’s going to find a way. You want to get a penalty when you need it, when you’re not playing well, get a goal, so I feel for him. It’s just because where Arsenal are in the league and they’re not performing.
“Also when you play out wide you are relying on other players to get you the ball and sometimes they just don’t give it to him.”