In his inaugural weekly column with our friends over at Just Arsenal, ex-Gunners star Michael Thomas has issued Bukayo Saka with the challenge of hitting Jadon Sancho and Raheem Sterling heights.
After naming the 19-year-old as one of the top five talents in world football – alongside the likes of Phil Foden, Erling Haaland and Mason Greenwood – Thomas set Saka a challenge to kick on even further.
Thomas, who spent nine years with the Gunners and cemented himself as an icon with the dramatic title-winning goal in the 1988/89 season, want to see Saka become ‘more’ of a ‘goalscorer’.
Saka marked his 10th for the first-team in 71 appearances with the equaliser against Benfica, which is a brilliant return for the ace who has seen a lot of action at left-back since breaking through.
Thomas states that he ‘wants to see’ the Arsenal academy graduate ‘replicate’ the likes of Manchester City superstar Raheem Sterling and Dortmund sensation Jadon Sancho with ‘double figures’ every term.
The ex-midfielder, who also starred for Liverpool and won two caps for England, reiterates that he’d expect this tally should Saka feature ‘out wide’.
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Here’s what the former Arsenal midfielder had to say on the current maestro and some challenges that Saka needs to meet to kick on to the next level:
“First of all, I want you all to know just how much I rate the new Arsenal sensation Bukayo Saka. He is definitely up there with the young talents that are emerging around the world.”
“It is hard to place him but I would say Saka definitely gets a place in my top 5.”
“He is up there with Phil Foden who is absolutely amazing, Erling Haaland who is another Lewandowski, and Man United’s Mason Greenwood.”
“What I do want to see more of from the 19 year-old in the near future is to become more and more of a goalscorer for Arsenal – in the long run, I want to see him replicate someone like Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho and aim for double figures every season from out wide.”
“I think that should definitely be a target of Saka’s. He has all the ability in the world to get those numbers but he will also need the support of his teammates and the continued platform that Mikel is giving him.”
Thomas also shared the position he sees Saka best at and it’s impact on Nicolas Pepe:
“I agree that the right hand side is probably where Saka is most effective in terms of goal contributions, but I don’t think that Saka’s emergence should mean that Pepe is likely to be left out in the cold.”
“I feel like Pepe is best when playing from the left at the minute. His form is slowly beginning to improve but he just has to be more consistent.”
“If not, the manager will never be able to trust him and may start looking for an upgrade in the summer.”
Most of Saka’s action has come in his natural position as winger this season, the wonderkid has looked brilliant with six goals and five assists across 29 appearances in all competitions.
Saka’s fine displays saw him break into the England senior team when international football returned and his continued solid displays should leave him a fixture in the squad for the Euros.
Getting anywhere near the likes of Sterling, who has ripped apart the top-flight for years now, and Sancho, who is continuing to run riot in Germany is no easy challenge but Saka has what it takes.
Mikel Arteta’s side finding a consistent goal threat outside of strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette – who have struggled at times this season – will massively improve the team.