Andries Jonker says the Arsenal academy worried that Bukayo Saka might be overachieving at youth level thanks to his physical advantages.
Bukayo Saka is clearly one of Arsenal’s top talents right now, but former academy head Andries Jonker says that wasn’t always so clear.
Whilst the likes of Reiss Nelson always showed top potential throughout the youth ranks, the Arsenal academy heads weren’t sure whether Saka was really that good. Despite regularly dominating games at that level, there was a fear that he was getting by on his superior physicality.
“Bukayo was another story,” Jonker said. “He was a left-winger, always long, tall and strong. Could run faster than his team-mates or the opponents, shoot harder than them.
“It was such a physical advantage that we questioned whether he was that good. Because of his physical advantage, it was easy to doubt whether he was really a good player technically.
“Then Freddie Ljungberg made him a full-back, and he did it and showed how good he really is.”
Saka certainly put those fears to rest this season, showing his ability with the senior side.
As Jonker says, the shift to full-back allowed him to really show what he can do. When you’re still performing well in tight spaces in the Premier League out of position against some of the top wingers in Europe, you probably have something about you.
Saka was certainly one of the quickest off the mark in the u23s. But that’s still the case now against first-team players. I particularly enjoyed watching him sprint past Mohamed Salah to win possession on Wednesday.
The same goes for his shooting. We had the curling efforts with either foot against Standard Liege and Frankfurt, the volley against Wolves and the arrowed finish against Bournemouth. Saka may not have a huge number of goals this season, but those four display his finishing prowess excellently.