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Bukayo Saka being kept out by sheer dominance

Mikel Arteta has a lot to choose from when picking his Arsenal attack. So much to choose from, in fact, that Bukayo Saka can’t even find any real estate.

It wasn’t all that long ago that you couldn’t keep Bukayo Saka out of the Arsenal starting XI if you tried. He was playing wingback, leftback, central midfield, left wing, right wing—wherever you needed, he could fill it.

Nowadays, it’s the opposite. You barely see him in the starting XI. And while that’s a tough situation to wrap your brain around, there’s just nothing you can do about it. He is facing a such sheer dominance ahead of him that there is no feasible way he can work his way into the starting XI as long as Mikel Arteta keeps the same shape.

His three primary position—wingback, left wing, and right wing—are home to three of Arsenal’s best players at the moment. And while I’d say that Saka is right at about our fourth or fifth best player at the moment, that is still less than No. 1, 2, or 3.

If he wants to break in at leftback, he’d have to unseat Kieran Tierney. Tierney has been incredible in every sense of the word. Even without the stats to back him, you will not find and Arsenal fan with a bad word to say about him. Which is truly remarkable, because Arsenal fans complain about everything.

At left wing, Saka would have to unseat Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is tied for the Premier League lead in goals and coming off a match where his pure effort and finishing ability netted him two goals and an assist.

If he wants to break in on the other side, at right wing, he’d have to unseat record-signing Nicolas Pepe, who is our most efficient goal producer alongside Aubameyang, and who is uniquely capable of creating for himself like no one else at this club.

What else can Saka do but bide his time? Honestly, you can’t even be mad that he isn’t starting right now because there’s just nowhere to put him. Even if you say you could start him at central midfield, which you really shouldn’t in a two midfield set, you’ve got Dani Ceballos to compete with, and he’s coming off his best performance of the season.

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All that can be done here is patience. Saka will get back into the starting XI, but there’s no point forcing it when so much else is working.

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