Bukayo Saka says he’s going to keep working hard in training to earn more first team opportunities after impressing on his full debut for the club in last night’s 1-0 win over Qarabag in the Europa League.
With nothing resting on the outcome, Emery took the opportunity to give game time to his teenage academy contingent, fielding Saka and Eddie Nketiah either side of Alex Lacazette and Joe Willock just behind Mesut Ozil.
The experience was a dream come true for 17-year-old Saka who came close to capping his full debut with a goal only to be denied by a save late on.
Speaking to Arsenal.com, he reflected: “It is a dream come true, ever since I joined the club at the age of eight I always dreamed of playing at the Emirates so for all the coaches and the fans to support me tonight was really good.
“I didn’t start too fast but I grew into the game and that’s what I wanted to do. I started to get past my man and create chances and I could have scored at the end, I don’t know what happened.
He added: “I think I just need to keep playing well at academy level and any chance I have an opportunity to train with the first team I need to impress the head coach and show him what I can do, so he can believe in me like he did tonight.”
Having never reached a higher level than the Windsor Merlins under-12s, it’s hard for us to imagine the excitement that comes with being told you’re going to play for Arsenal. For Saka, the experience was one shared with his entire family, who then had to ensure he got some sleep the night before the game.
“I think it was Wednesday in training, we went through the team and [Unai Emery] called it out and I couldn’t believe it, but I just had to get on with it.
“I just focused, and I couldn’t stop thinking about today and how I was going to play, and I think it turned out alright. But I should have got my goal!
“They [my family] were buzzing, they couldn’t stop smiling last night but they got me into bed early and we are all just so happy.”
Obviously, there’s a long road ahead if Saka’s to establish himself as a bona fide first team wing option but it’s a promising start for the lad. He’ll likely spend the rest of the season at London Colney fighting for more opportunities in the cup competitions and, depending on how that goes, he could well be weighing up a loan move next year.