It was a proud moment.
Just as with Ainsley Maitland-Niles earlier this season, Bukayo Saka made his England senior debut in the 3-0 win over Wales. All associated with Arsenal couldn’t be happier.
A very experimental side put out by Gareth Southgate was an effort to blood a sea of untested players into the national fold. Given it was just a friendly – albeit against Wales – there was no concerns over handing a series of opportunities to some of the less regular features.
Having spoken earlier in the week about how Saka is wasted in a defensive role, Southgate persisted to play him…..in a defensive role.
Left wing-back is an area that the Arsenal No. 7 is very familiar with, but under Mikel Arteta there are far less defensive burdens placed on the 19-year-old’s shoulder, with him given the freedom to drift infield and attack the channels.
This is not going to be a slagging off of the Three Lions’ boss, although he essentially played seven defensive players against a very poor Welsh side (why?), but instead a look at the debut for our Hale End star who grew into the Wembley encounter as the game wore on.
Admittedly, Saka did look a tad uncertain in the opening exchanges.
Completely understandable, though. The forward was making his England debut. From the start. At Wembley.
Furthermore, the unfamiliarity of the surroundings wont’ have helped, despite him stating the rest of the squad had been great with him since he got to St George’s Park.
As the match wore on, Saka’s confidence grew. England had abandoned their left side in favour of Kieran Trippier touching the ball as many times as feasibly possible – he is to Southgate what Niko Kranjcar is to Harry Redknapp – but an insistence to prove himself meant he picked up some dangerous areas of the pitch. Granted, he barely received possession, but it was clear from the manager that he appreciated the work Saka put in both on and off the ball.
Keeping him on for longer than expected (76 minutes) indicates he knows full well what the forward can offer the Three Lions. His rapid rise to this stage continues to leave people stunned. Leaps and bounds doesn’t cut it.
Seeing him don the England shirt, with Maitland-Niles also in the fold, bodes so well for the future. Oh, and we mustn’t forget Eddie Nketiah scored. AGAIN.