Aaron Ramsdale has revealed that Bukayo Saka felt personally responsible for Arsenal’s failure to qualify for the top four last season and says he’s been trying to comfort his teammate by highlighting the club’s ongoing progress.
The Gunners looked well-placed to end a five-year exodus from the Champions League heading into the final weeks of the 21/22 campaign but stumbled against Sp*rs and Newcastle and had to settle for fifth place.
While Saka has always retained the love of the fans – he’s now been voted the club’s player of the season two years running – it sounds as though he beat himself up about the situation.
Speaking from Qatar, where both players are part of England’s squad for the World Cup, Ramsdale explained how he’s been comforting his 21-year-old teammate.
“When we missed out on the top four and he felt it was all his fault because he couldn’t provide for us, I was able to help him reflect on the fact the season before they’d finished eighth then we finished fifth and if we go another step again, we’ll be in the top four. It’s that perspective of, it’s a game of football and there’s a lot more to it.”
The Arsenal keeper also praised the way Saka and fellow academy graduate Emile Smith Rowe coped with the burden of expectation placed on them last season despite being so young.
“Don’t forget that he had the pressure of the whole football club on him last year; him and Emile Smith Rowe were our two main guys.
“He’s dealt with that and dealt with everything else and he’s thriving now. I can’t wait to see him thrive over here.
He added: “The kid is a lovely boy, he has time for everyone, works super hard throughout every week and very rarely misses a training session. And he used all that motivation from the criticism [after the penalty miss against Italy] but also, and more so, the love which everyone gave him, it gave him an extra boost.”
While last season’s collapse was obviously disappointing, we’re not sure anyone in their right mind would point the finger of blame at Bukayo. On the plus side, that all feels like it’s in the distant past. Saka has been flying again this season and Arsenal are five points clear at the top of the table.