Yet again, England seems to have dealt Nigeria another heavy blow after handling Arsenal’s exciting attacker, Bukayo Saka a senior England call-up. On a day Nigeria was celebrating her 60th independence day anniversary, news frittered in that the young Gunner had been handed his first senior call up by manager, Gareth Southgate.
Saka has responded to the call up, expressing great delight and excitement to the disappointment of many Nigerians that felt the Arsenal starlet should not go the way of fellow Londoner, Tammy Abraham who had earlier opted for the white stripes of the Three Lions instead of the green apparel of the Super Eagles.
Fear is rife in many quarters that Saka has no international future playing for England as there are too many good players and seemingly better ones that could see struggle to nail down a place in the team and rack up more caps when push comes to shove. Hence, he might just end up with a solitary cap like John Fashanu and Gabriel Agbolahor. As genuine as that concern is, I believe Saka represents a different kettle of fish that would fry differently.
Besides his prodigious talent, his versatility is another thing that stands him out. He has shown at Arsenal that he could play at left back, left wing, left wing back, right wing and an attacking midfield. The ability to tick multiple boxes and adapt to different tactical formation further enhances his chances of getting into the team even when competition becomes fierce. Many managers love players that fit into many roles, they have many times proven to be soldiers worthy of the battle front..
Another thing that stands him out is the club profile. Bukayo Saka plays for Arsenal while Agbolahor even at the peak of his powers was at Aston Villa. The former cannot in any way be equated with the latter, the difference and gulf in class is huge and clear. If Saka continues to nail down a spot for himself at Arsenal, his chances of being a recurring decimal in the Gareth Southgate’s equation is a huge possibility.
Tammy Abraham got a cap in the past and has landed another call-up, playing for a big club like Chelsea played a big role in that. National team managers need little or no push to watch games of top clubs but would require huge extrinsic motivation to watch games of middle and lower rung table sides.
Bukayo Saka is just 19, the talent is there and he has a manager that believes in him, all he needs to do is keep his head down and keep working hard and this would be the first call-up and not the last.