Bukayo Saka became the first player born in 2001 to feature in the Premier League when he came on as a second-half substitute for Arsenal against Fulham at the Emirates on New Year’s Day.
Saka came on for his Premier League debut after 83 minutes when he replaced Alex Iwobi making him the first player of his year, from any club, to play at the very top level.
In addition, while admittedly not as good a stat as that one, his shirt number, 87, was also the highest ever used by a footballer in the Premier League.
Saka, who only turned 17 in September, turned down Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham and Watford to sign for Arsenal as a child.
Saka made his full debut at the Emirates Stadium against Qarabag in the Europa League. He impressed supporters with an energetic and exciting performance, even if he admitted afterwards he should’ve scored at the end.
Even though many Arsenal fans probably hadn’t even heard of the youngster before this season, he’s been around the club for eight years now, joining as a nine-year-old. The winger explained that when he first signed, he had offers from plenty of other London clubs, but turned them all down.
“I had invitations from Spurs, Chelsea, Fulham and Watford but the only choice was Arsenal,” said Saka. “I enjoyed the way that Arsenal played so the choice was easy for me.
“I trained at Hale End and signed when I was nine years old. Receiving a scholarship and then signing a professional contract a couple of months ago and playing for the first-team has made this year very special already.”
Saka has consistently found himself fast-tracked to higher levels throughout his time with the Arsenal academy. Reaching the u23s before he turned 17 was impressive enough, with all the competition at that level at the moment. Now he’s in the first-team squad.
It says a lot about Saka’s talent that he was eligible to play in the FA Youth Cup last Wednesday, a competition for u18s, yet he started for the senior side the next day instead.
Let’s hope the youngster can continue his progress so Arsenal fans can rub this one in the faces of the London rivals for years to come.