We’re running out of words to describe Bukayo Saka, but here’s a few:
Fantastic. Stupendous. Unreal. First class.
At 19-years-old he is playing like someone years above his age group. He now has ten goal involvements in his last 12 starts in all competitions (5 goals, 5 assists). He won 100 per cent of his aerial duels, recorded 92 per cent pass accuracy, made two ball recoveries and most importantly netted two assists for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
His first was a deft pass that showcased his ability to play in the no.10 role, but his crucial second saw the England international provide an inch-perfect cross for Aubameyang to head the winner into the net.
There’s plenty more to come from Saka and it’s vital that Mikel Arteta manages him carefully as he continues to play week in, week out.
Ceballos loan no chance
Dani Ceballos had a disastrous game in Greece on Thursday night. He gave away the free-kick for Benfica’s opener and fluffed his header into the path of Rafa Silva for their second.
They were mistakes which could have cost the Gunners. If Mikel Arteta was thinking about making his loan move from Real Madrid permanent, this would have been the match to make him reconsider.
Even more obvious was the fact that over the two legs Arsenal conceded from a penalty, free-kick and self-inflicted mistake. Those mistakes need to be cut out if they have any chance of progressing to the latter stages of the tournament.
Past his best? No chance
“Aubameyang is past his best,” said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp. “He’s going to have moments; he’s going to get hat-tricks. But when I watch him sometimes, it’s like he’s lost his superpower.
“I saw him run past people when he first came to the Premier League. I saw him run past people at Dortmund. Now I’m seeing a player who looks like he’s going to get bullied.”
Aubameyang is still on course to reach 20 goals for the season in what many will label his ‘worst’ goalscoring campaign.
He’s scored eight goals in his last nine games in all competitions and continues to score crucial goals in the biggest games.
It’s fair to say that Auba made the difference on Thursday night, just as he did during Arsenal’s run to the Europa League final in 2018.
He will be hoping to replicate his performances from that run and send Arsenal to Gdansk as the Gunners look to reach another European final.
Pepe set for Sunday start?
Nicolas Pepe wasn’t involved in any capacity against Benfica which took many fans by surprise.
The Portuguese side play with a high line and he would have been expected to take advantage of that weakness.
When it looked like he could be involved in the second half Arteta went for Willian instead, a sign that the Spaniard may be thinking ahead to Sunday’s away match against Leicester.
The game against Brendan Rodgers’ side is an early kick-off and Arsenal will need as many fresh legs as possible following their long journey to Greece.
When Arteta decided to bring the former Chelsea midfielder on in the second half there were collective groans from Arsenal fans around the world.
But he made an instant impact. His running down the left hand side and pass for Kieran Tierney set the tone for the Gunners’ equaliser.
And he looked impressive during his 30 minutes on the pitch. It’s been a long time coming for a player who has rarely made an impact since joining the club.
Arteta will hope it’s a sign of things to come for Willian who will be determined to make a difference in the final few months of the season.