A narrative seems to have emerged that Bukayo Saka is somewhat lucky to have been called up to the England squad for Euro 2020.
In the build up to Tuesday’s announcement of the 26 players Gareth Southgate had selected to take with him to the tournament this summer many pundits had the 19-year-old among their players to be axed from the 33-man provisional squad.
The argument seemed to based on the fact that his finishing ability was perhaps not quite as strong as Mason Greenwood, while his tournament experience was lacking compared to someone like Jesse Lingard.
But pressure to deliver has never been an issue for Saka and with his performance against Austria for the Three Lions on Wednesday, he sent a clear signal that he intends to spend this summer proving his doubters wrong.
The Hale End graduate popped up with his first goal at international level to win the game and was impressive throughout combining well with Jack Grealish and earning the man of the match award for his efforts.
The performance did not go unnoticed by Gareth Southgate, who singled the 19-year-old out for praise.
“I thought Bukayo [Saka] right from the start he linked the game really well he received well on the line he received well inside,” said the England manager.
“He’s got a lovely ability to receive in that traffic in the middle of the field and is like a slippery eel getting away from those challenges. Nice run on the outside with the little cut back cross.
“And his all round game. He works defensively for the team. So really pleased with him and for him to get the goal.”
Despite yet another good display, another perhaps unfair suggestion that has been levelled against Saka is that he is only in the squad for his versatility.
Those who maybe haven’t seen him play often this season look at him and see a Swiss Army knife type player capable of covering in any position on the pitch without ever really nailing a single role down.
“I think [Bukayo] Saka, he can play that many positions and for some people that might be a strength for Gareth [Southgate] but for me that’s a weakness”, said Jamie Carragher in April.
Mikel Arteta has used the youngster as a full back, wing back and winger on both sides as well as as a number 10 and central midfielder this season. In the last five games of Arsenal’s season alone he took up six different positions on the pitch.
However, those who have watched Saka take on all comers with relative ease in both the Premier League and Europa League this season will know the 19-year-old is a potentially world class winger who has the game intelligence to play multiple positions for his team and not the other way around.
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Sure his versatility is a plus, but the Arsenal youngster is in the squad on merit not just as cover.
The fact that he has been called into the side as a forward though in a squad containing four right backs and two left backs suggests that he is there on merit in his favoured position.
He probably won’t start the biggest games at the Euros this summer, but with yet another impressive display for England last night the 19-year-old showed that he is ready to silence his critics this summer.