Southgate: We’re monitoring Saka very closely

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Gareth Southgate admits that he’s keeping tabs on Bukayo Saka’s progress at Arsenal but for the moment he’s happy to let the 18-year-old develop with England’s under-21s.

Saka enjoyed an outstanding season at club level, scoring four goals and registering 11 assists in 38 games. He was rewarded with a new long-term contract at the Emirates and handed the coveted number 7 shirt.

The winger’s rise to prominence is known to have piqued the interest of Nigeria, for whom he also qualifies to play, and led to suggestions that England should fast-track his senior debut in case he follows the lead of Alex Iwobi and switches allegiance.

Facing the press after naming his England squad to face Iceland and Denmark in next month’s friendlies, Southgate made clear Saka is firmly on his radar but wants the youngster to spend the upcoming Interlull in the hands of Aidy Boothroyd.

“He’s obviously with the Under-21s this time and I feel he’s more of an attacking player,” he said.

“I know he’s played at left-back and he’s given good contributions there in an attacking sense certainly.

“At the moment left wing-back, left side higher up the pitch, I know he’s played in midfield and on the right as well but that they would be his better positions. He’s a very exciting player.

“It is still early for him but he’s a player we like and we monitoring very closely.

“Saka had a very good season with Arsenal, [he was] not in the team at the very end but really good season of progress and he’s a player watching very closely.”

To date, Saka has been capped at under-16, under-17, under-18 and under-19 levels so a move to the under-21s represents progress.

England’s under-21s kick off their qualification campaign for their own European Championships on 4 September in Kosovo. They then face Austria five days later, just three days before the Premier League season starts.

Confirmation of the full England under-21 lineup could be interesting. Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, Joe Willock and Emile Smith Rowe are also in with a chance of call-ups.

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C.B.

Top young player, would be great if he played for England.

Richard

I don’t know why this is downvoted, perhaps it’s Nigerian Gooners who don’t want him to commit to England, understandably.

Man Manny

Yes; I am one of them Nigerian Gooners who downvoted: I am dying to have Saka in the famous green and white.
But I don’t think it’ll be as easy as Iwobi. We know the role the mercurial JJ Okocha – who happens to be his uncle – played in getting Iwobi to switch to the Super Eagles.
Our only hope lies in the words of Saka himself; he said he is proud of his Nigerian heritage…or something like that.
I hope that pride will be strong enough to resist the charm offensive of England when it comes.

T.ROSICKY

I am also one of them. Common, England have a plethora of attacking talent to choose. Leave this boy to play for his father’s country

Non-flying dutchman

England doesn’t have any prospect on the left wing as exciting as Saka. Anyway down to him and whichever he picks the others should accept with good grace

Non-flying dutchman

ie. No repeat of treatment of Dele Ali…. Much other abuse that man receives is well earnt but not on this issue

Martin

Why are there so many thumbs down for praising an Arsenal player?

Ashburton

Maybe because he might stand more of a chance to progress away from the intense spotlight and actually win something with Nigeria..

Qwaliteee

Have Nigeria won the World Cup?

No they haven’t.

canon fodder

Yes they have; they won the FIFA under 17 World Cup on four occasions and the Olympic gold medal in 1996

Qwaliteee

Yeah, well, I think we all know which World Cup I’m talking about.

The one that matters.

A Different George

Oh ffs, it was 54 years ago. Harold Wilson was PM. Lyndon Johnson was US president. It was a long time ago.

canon fodder

Try telling the players who have won the tournament that it doesn’t matter. Are you aware that our very own Kanu won it in 1993? It was the World Cup win that put him in the shop window, as it were.

Qwaliteee

That’s Spud talk, mate; a pathetic counter argument.

Just because it was achieved a while back that doesn’t rule out it’s achievement.

We’re supposed to treat an Olympic Gold medal and all the other Mickey Mouse trophies that come free in a breakfast cereal packet seriously – yet the World Cup of 1966 doesn’t count because it was contested in 1966.

You’re not covering yourself in glory, metaphorically and literally.

Neder

To the contrary, harking on about a world cup win back in 1966 is much like a Spurs fan going on about how they won the league in 1961.

The reality is that Nigeria have been considerably more successful (measuring by awards won) over the last 20 years than England have. Irrespective of age group.

loose_cannon

Has playing for England actually ever stopped top players from progressing? Yes there’s extra scrutiny and sadly especially so for black players, Raheem Sterling being a prime example. But you can’t say it’s stopped him from being a top player.

More to the point we shouldn’t be discouraging dual nationality / ethnic minority players from England because of the meeeedia. That’s not solving the problem, it’s reinforcing it!

Daveo

Or you could let him make his own decision without any of this pressure.

loose_cannon

Well yeah I totally, 100% agree. He should make his own decision free from pressure or anything like that.

Qwaliteee

I know. It’s pathetic.

ArsenesLongSufferingZipper

It’s not about the praise for the player. More Nigerians support Arsenal than any other PL club. Scratch that: more Nigerians support Arsenal than any other club, period. (I happen to be one of that long-suffering lot). Guess they’re the ones down-voting the prospect of the lad choosing to play for England.

GoonerNiaja

He belongs to Nigeria. Leave him alone. My kids are also playing for Nigeria. Who cares what their passport says.

Merlin’s Panini

He belongs to whoever he chooses to belong to.

loose_cannon

Exactly, it’s his personal decision and there’s no “wrong” choice between the two countries.

Qwaliteee

The lad was born in London; he’s English.

Who cares about what the passport says? The authorities for a start! ?

ArsenesLongSufferingZipper

He “belongs” to Nigeria? And in the same breath, “who cares what his passport says”? Awful lot of logic there. And I’m Nigerian, by the way.

Efeli

We really have an interesting group of youngsters. Hopefully at least of them will break through and will become a future legend.
Wondering if we can at least nurture some good role players/ generate extra funds by developing these guys later on.

GARRY

honestly as much as I would like him to play for England I don’t think he’ll be a regular for England I think he’ll have a greater chance of playing regularly and going to major tournaments with Nigeria than with England.

mjc1892

Not so sure, England are desperately short of a dependable left back, and have been since Cole retired. Current squad defenders:
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Eric Dier, Joe Gomez, Michael Keane, Tyrone Mings, Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker.
Who else could there be? Chilwell, Rose, Bertrand, Shaw. I think Chilwell is the only one of those who has a high potential as Saka does.
I think that’s his best option- don’t see anyone taking lw off Sterling for a while.

lessthanthesumoftheirparts

Flawless argument buddy, except he’s not a left back.

mjc1892

Plenty of examples of players playing different positions for their countries, and he’s well on his way to proving himself as someone who can seamlessly switch between full back and midfield roles. If England move to a back 5 which is something I can very much see given lack of centre mid options then I think he’s currently near the top of the list for the wing back role.

Richie

Maitland-Niles should be in the England squad after his FA Cup Semi and Final performances. Maybe he can replace Harry McBriber.

Danny

I hope he chooses Nigeria. In England he’d just be another guy. In Nigeria and across Africa he could become a god.

MontrealGooner

I don’t really have a dog in this fight as I am not English. That said, I just wonder why the FA didn’t include Saka in the Young Player of the Year category at the end of the season. If they are really keeping a “close eye” on him, wouldn’t they being trying to bring him into the setup? Also the midfield that Southgate announced is incredibly underwhelming.

Robin

I hope he chooses England because he is English and England is his home. I understand the pull when players have dual nationality, especially when there is footballing family (as there was for Iwobi) but I still think players should opt for the country they grew up in. Still, that’s just an opinion. Also, from a purely selfish Arsenal position, I don’t want him called away mid season to play in the AFCON.

Gabe

You undervalue the importance of heritage, ancestry and blood relations.

Daveo

And once again personal choice!!

Laca new signing

Like they haven’t learnt anything with the Özil German situation yet.

Qwaliteee

You undervalue where he was born and raised.

Tierneys tescobag

Such an exiting player! Imagine if him and Smith-Rowe could just kick on from their good performances last season and establish themselves as top premier leauge players

Gunnermite

You had me worried for a second, then I realised you meant “exciting player”

ArsenesLongSufferingZipper

Don’t worry. Our best players usually don’t “exit” until they’re made captain. Vieira, Henry, Fabregas, Van Persie. Auba? (da thing ain’t officially signed yet).
So who else is superstitious enough to wish Saka never gets that accursed band?

Tierneys tescobag

Hahaha sorry, exciting! My bad

Qwaliteee

Come on Saka my son. England all the way! ?????????

loose_cannon

The biggest barrier to Saka getting into the England squad is getting first team minutes at Arsenal. As undoubtedly talented as he is, I’m not sure he’ll fit into the first 11, so unless Arteta rotates loads he may not play enough to be in contention. Won’t just be a problem for him though, Foden and Mount may have to fight for playing time as well. Southgate mentioned him looking best on the left, but England aren’t flush with right side options either. Just Sancho really, if Sterling starts on the left, and no attacking left-footers. Saka could be a… Read more »

Tapps

Throw ’em a curved ball Bukayo – and pledge your future to the Mighty Socceroos! I’m sure we can find some way of justifying it!

Crash Fistfight

They’re monitoring his contract situation. If he signs for someone else he’ll get a call-up.

David C

Maybe he has a Canadian grandparent. Come play for us and join Alphonso Davies down the left! Haha, a guy can dream.

I hope we don’t overplay Saka too much this year like we have certain youngsters in the past.

MontrealGooner

I would love that David!

Rawbeendraw

I don’t see a point in not including Saka in England squad list…. His record has been good past season, can play in multiple position…. Young with lots of potential but yet he’s not good enough for even making to the substitutes bench…. If i was in Saka’s position i would choose Nigeria….. Youth players need trust and confidence to develop well but if you can’t give them what they need in time then you deserve to lose… At last, i know southgate is ready to give youth a chance but i can’t understand why the hell he still needs… Read more »

Clarence

Europe is always poaching the best African talent then you hear ignorant statements from white supremacists about Africa has never won a world cup. France won it in 98 with basically an African team. I hope he chooses Nigeria the country of his ancestry