When Arsenal bought Kieran Tierney over the summer with Sead Kolasinac already in the fold, it looked as if the left back position was set. The Gunners had two top-league tested, international players at the position. But the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
Both Tierney and Kolasinac have struggled with injuries for most of the season, and Arsenal don’t have a third natural left back at the club. Enter Bukayo Saka. The young winger had announced himself to the world back in September with a goal and two assist performance in the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt but that was as a left winger. He had no senior playing experience at left back.
But he’d made some appearances there for the U23’s and Freddie Ljungberg was comfortable (and forced) to play him there in December. The rest, as they say, is (recent) history. He’s been a revelation at the position — his winger background makes him a dangerous threat going forward, and he’s strong enough defensively to more than hold his own. Mikel Arteta has set up Arsenal to take advantage of Saka’s offensive talents; he’s now a focal point of the Gunners’ attack.
Saka is only on £3,000-a-week wages, is out of contract in 18 months, and is garnering significant interest from top clubs around Europe, according to David Ornstein. Arsenal have been down the last-year-of-a-contract road with top players before, and the club would prefer not to do it again. The execs at the Emirates are keen to sign him to a longer deal and are holding talks with him and his agent. While a new contract isn’t imminent, the club is optimistic they’ll work something out.
With more negotiations planned, Arsenal would do well to lock him in sooner rather than later. As he continues to put in stellar performances and be a regular starter, his price is only going to go up. Saka has a difficult decision to make — cash in on his increased value now or “bet on himself” for a while longer to see if he can up his price even more. Given the similarities in their profiles — young player, breakout performances, desire from the club to keep other teams away — I’d guess Saka ends up getting something close to the £40,000-a-week that Matteo Guendouzi got last season on his new deal.
To be clear, there hasn’t been anything in the media that makes me concerned a deal won’t get done; there is no reason to panic. It’s just something that should be (and apparently is) at the top of the to-do list for Arsenal. Even without a new contract in place, I’m already excited about a left-side of Kieran Tierney with Bukayo Saka in front of him.