Why Saka should not be rushed – not for Arsenal and certainly not for England!

Saka too young for England


Arsenal Fans want Saka in England squad

For those questioning why other young players are being selected for Southgate’s England, perhaps such as Foden or Greenwood, ahead of our own revelation Bukayo Saka, I say be careful what you wish for.

When you question the elevation of Ainsley Maitland-Niles over Saka, just rewind a few weeks and remind yourself that Mikel Arteta, who watches both players daily, selected AMN over Saka at left wingback, on his wrong foot, in three Wembley matches. Do we know more than our own coach, who the England Manager will undoubtedly have spoken to?

Saka is a rare talent to be sure but let us take stock and remember that he was only 19 last weekend. He has time on his side, and we do not even know what his regular position for Arsenal will be yet, although I am sure we all have a view. England – and indeed, Arsenal – will always want and need a utility player or two in their squad, but do we want Saka to be cast in that role for England before seeing him win a regular berth at Arsenal?


A talent to be carefully nurtured

Footballers have short careers, but it seems we as supporters are demanding our favourites gain international recognition at such a young age these days, when it should be the case that at Saka’s age we are carefully managing his game time and development to ensure he reaches the potential we all anticipate. I trust Arteta will do this with Saka and I think we have seen this already. Maitland-Niles is 23 and his body fully developed and therefore ready for the additional demands placed on his joints and muscles.

Anyway, to give some food for thought and I hope back up my argument for patience for Saka with Arsenal and especially for England……

Player Age at England Debut Caps
Paul Gascoigne 21 57
David Beckham 21 116
Frank Lampard 21 106
Paul Scholes 23 66
Teddy Sheringham 27 51
Alan Shearer 22 63
Peter Beardsley 25 59
Chris Waddle 25 82


There was pressure and calls from the media for most of the above creative attacking players to be brought into the England fold earlier, but the coaches at the time were more cautious than the ‘we want it now’ football of the 21st century and media allow. It did none of the above any harm becoming England regulars in their 20s.

And to add some food for thought from an Arsenal perspective here are a few old favourites, who maybe, just maybe had too much football, both for club and country too early….


Career blighted due to ridiculous early demands


Player Age at England Debut Caps Fulfilled Potential?
Theo Walcott 17 47 Never reached levels expected
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 18 35 Almost permanently injured
Jack Wilshere 18 34 Almost permanently injured
Kieran Gibbs 20 10 Never reach potential expected


From a non-Arsenal perspective, I could throw in Aaron Lennon, as a wide player with similar expectation levels at a young age as Saka. Lennon was playing in the World Cup Finals at 19, but in a 7 year international career he managed only 31 caps and in truth his career peaked at 23 and by the time he should have been enjoying the best of his career he was injured or bench warming at Everton and Burnley.


Saka and his new mentor?

I would like to see Bukayo’s peak years for England in years to come and his best years in Red and White, having seen his career managed and progressed with patience. With the signing of Willian, I believe Arteta has taken a sensible step to assuring that is the case.

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2 Responses to Why Saka should not be rushed – not for Arsenal and certainly not for England!

  1. Victor Thompson September 8, 2020 at 5:49 pm #

    I had to get the above URL before my comments were accepted Dave? Anyway, I think Arteta will use him in particular games where he will do a specific job for him. He will build his confidence up and I can see a Sterling type improvement. My recollection of Sterling at his age, is that he was probably behind Saka at this stage of his game.

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