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SENSATİONAL SAKA SHOWS SOUTHGATE WHAT HE’S MİSSİNG



Were you watching Gareth Southgate?

The England manager was not at Wembley to see Arsenal beat Liverpool on penalties to win the Community Shield, but had he been he may well have left the home of English football thinking he had made a major mistake in leaving Bukayo Saka out of his latest squad.

The Arsenal teenager – who has yet to receive a senior call-up for the Three Lions – was magnificent as Mikel Arteta’ss somewhat makeshift side saw off the Premier League champions 5-4 on spot kicks following a 1-1 draw.

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may have scored Arsenal’s goal in magnificent style, thumping a bending strike past Alisson after just 12 minutes.

But it was Saka’s brilliant pass that set up Aubameyang’s strike, and that was just one of several superb pieces of play from the youngster who carried on exactly where he left off last season.

He may have tired in the second half, which is no surprise given Arsenal have been back together for less than a week and only managed two full training sessions ahead of their meeting with Jurgen Klopp’s side, but it was still a performance to make his omission from Southgate’s squad all the more baffling.

The 18-year-old played on the right side of attack against Liverpool, but the majority of his fine displays last season were at left-back. And given Southgate did not name one left-back in his squad to face Iceland and Denmark in the Nations League next week, leaving Saka out was all the more surprising.

The England boss was quizzed on Saka’s absence and suggested it is because he does not see him as a defensive option, but he showed last season he is more than capable of playing that role.

“I feel he’s more of an attacking player,” said Southgate. “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.

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

And if that is the case, then Southgate would have seen Saka being the driven force in an excellent first half performance from Arsenal at Wembley, one that saw them deservedly leading at the break.

His cross-field pass set up Aubameyang for a fabulous opening goal, and one that started at the feet of Emiliano Martinez and ended with the Gabon international firing an unstoppable shot past the diving Alisson following a wonderful team move.

Since the start of last season, Kevin De Bruyne (22) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (15) are the only Premier League players to have more assists in all competitions than Saka.

The academy product was at the heart of another fine move which could have seen Eddie Nketiah double the lead soon after, only for Alisson to deny him with a sharp stop down to his left.

Despite dominating possession, Liverpool did not even muster a shot on target in the first half, and it was not until Arsenal began to tire in the second half that the champions began to cause Arteta’s side problems.

But whenever they did get a sight of goal, Emiliano Martinez was there to deny them – saving twice to keep out efforts from Sadio Mane. The Argentine, linked with a move away in recent days, showed again why there are so many who believe that he should start the new season as No.1 in north London.

He was eventually beaten by Takumi Minamino’s close range finish 17 minutes from time, but it was another eye-catching display by the keeper just a fortnight before the season opener at Fulham.

Martinez was not able to save any of the penalties in the shoot-out, but he did not need to as Rhian Brewster’s miss was enough to give Arsenal victory and off them a huge confidence boost ahead of the coming campaign.

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SENSATİONAL SAKA SHOWS SOUTHGATE WHAT HE’S MİSSİNG


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