Arsenal suffered the agony of surrendering a one-goal lead against Slavia Prague in the first-leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter-final on Thursday evening at the Emirates Stadium.
As the game entered second-half stoppage time, the Gunners lead 1-0 thanks to Nicolas Pepe’s ninth goal of the campaign, meaning they looked destined to head into next week’s second-leg with their noses in front.
However, Slavia were to seal a dramatic late equaliser and an all-important away goal when Tomas Holes headed home at the back-post deep into stoppage time.
It was a bitter pill for Arsenal to swallow as they had wasted no shortage of chances to win the first-leg and travel to the Czech Republic next Thursday in the driving seat.
Instead, they will make the trip knowing they have to score, with Slavia currently having an away goal to their name.
Therefore, the Gunners, who return to Premier League action on Sunday evening when they travel to Bramall Lane to lock horns with Sheffield United, will have to be at their very best if they are to deliver the goods and get the better of a Slavia side who have already dispatched of both Leicester City and Rangers on route to their last-eight of the competition this season.
If Arsenal are to get the better of Slavia, they will need their top talents to be at their very best, including both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Pepe, who both stepped off the bench on Thursday evening to combine for the latter to open the scoring.
As well as those two likely to be required to be at full throttle, Bukayo Saka may also be an influential figure in the Gunners’ hopes of progressing to the semi-finals.
In what has been a disappointing campaign for Mikel Arteta’s side overall, Saka has been a shinning light, providing hope and optimism that he will be a star performer for Arsenal for years to come.
Although the England international may only be 19-years-old, he has been a consistent performer for the Gunners this season, racking up 36 appearances, scoring six goals and claiming seven assists in the process.
Despite his tender age, Saka has been a revelation for Arsenal this season. He has been tasked with playing in a variety of different positions and, on no shortage of occasions, acted as the Gunners’ main man and go-to figure in an attempt to make something happen.
So much so, Saka, according to data provided by the CIES Football Observatory, now has a valuation of £100.9million, meaning he is now one of the most valuable English footballers in the world.
Saka’s near-£101million valuation puts him high up on the list, ahead of a series of big-name players, including former Arsenal man Serge Gnabry, Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount and former Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku, who is now on the books of Inter Milan.
As well as finding himself above those three in the rankings, Saka also finds himself ahead of England teammates Phil Foden and Harry Kane.
Foden, who scored the winner for Manchester City in midweek against Borussia Dortmund in the first-leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final has a value, according to the data, of £71.1million, whilst Kane is priced at £91.9million.
For Saka, according to this particular set of data, to be ahead of both Foden and Kane, who are world class players, in terms of valuation says a lot about his potential and what he could achieve in years to come.
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His versatility, which sees him capable of playing at left-back or on either flank, is almost certain to have contributed to his stock rising.
Whilst it is hard to compare Saka, Foden and Kane directly, they are all in their respective teams for the exact same reason: to score goals and create them.
The latest CIES figures currently have Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford at the top of the chart, valued at £142.2million, with Erling Haaland breathing down his neck in second spot, valued at £130.5million.