Arsenal FC

Bukayo Saka continues to flourish in new role in Arsenal's win at Southampton

Matt O'Connor-Simpson
Jan 26, 2021, 11:00 PM GMT
Saka ha flourished since being moved to the right
Saka ha flourished since being moved to the right | Pool/Getty Images
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A month ago, Arsenal were being written off as relegation fodder, while Southampton were being tipped as unlikely top four contenders.

It is testament to the fine job that Mikel Arteta has done in motivating his squad that when the two sides met in the Premier League on Tuesday night, the Gunners managed to secure a fairly straightforward win.

In the past, conceding in the opening three minutes might have been enough to down Arteta's mentally fragile charges. However, on Tuesday this was not the case. Instead, the Gunners rallied brilliantly, eventually securing a 3-1 victory.

The credit for such a result should not go to just one man - whether that be Arteta or a player - as collectively, the north Londoners were very strong. Despite this, someone who is worthy of extra special praise is Bukayo Saka.

Deployed as a right forward, Saka once again impressed. Since being move to the opposite flank by Arteta five games ago, the Gunners form has improved dramatically. Prior to the switch, Arsenal had won just four of their opening 14 games.

Since swapping him, they are unbeaten, with Saka registering six direct goal involvements in as many games. His latest two contributions were very impressive as well. Just before half-time, Saka slipped free of Jake Vokins and raced onto Alexandre Lacazette's through ball. Despite travelling at ridiculous pace, he showed the speed of thought to skip past the onrushing Alex McCarthy before firing the ball into the empty net.

After the break, he was at it again, this time returning the favour to Lacazette with a tremendous assist. Drifting free of his marker at the back post, Saka was found by Cedric Soares' long ball. Without breaking stride, Saka latched onto it before putting an appetising ball across the box for Lacazette to bundle home.

The goal put the game beyond Southampton's reach but it was just the latest, decisive impact that Saka has had while operating down the right-hand side.

Of course, it would be overly simplistic to put Arsenal's sudden upturn in fortunes down to the tweaking of one player's role, but his success in the position does suggest that his long-term future could lie there.

What were you doing at 19?
What were you doing at 19? | Pool/Getty Images

Previously this season, when deployed as a wing-back, there was a feeling that Saka could not influence things enough in the final third. There is little danger of that now and the England international's efficient, yet attractive performances have played a significant role in transforming Arsenal stodgy, predictable approach play.

Considering he has only been able to legally buy a pint for just under 17 months, that is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

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