Football Features

“Bukayo Saka is a superstar” – Five things learned as Leicester hold 10-man Arsenal for historic point at the Emirates

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:38, 7 July 2020

In a dramatic night of football, Leicester came from behind to draw 1-1 with 10-man Arsenal at the Emirates.

The result was just the second point Leicester have picked up at the Emirates since the 1970’s and it kept the top four race on a knife’s edge. What did we learn?

1. Bukayo Saka is a superstar

It seems like a lifetime ago now but Bukayo Saka emerged earlier in the season under Unai Emery. The winger starred in Arsenal’s group stage games in the Europa League which saw him enter into squads and teams in the Premier League too.

He looked a promising player, and when Mikel Arteta converted him to left-back to cover for Arsenal’s injuries and he somehow excelled despite being a slight winger, Arsenal may have thought they had an incredible squad player on their hands. A utility man to cover multiple positions competently and save the Gunners extra investment.

But tonight’s game against Leicester proved without a shadow of a doubt that Bukayo Saka is no squad player, Bukayo Saka is a superstar. The 18-year-old absolutely tormented the Foxes every second he was on the field, constantly providing a threat both with the ball and in behind. He created more chances than any other player (3) while he was on the field. Nicolas Pépé, Arsenal’s major summer signing, never even saw the field – such was the degree to which Saka had outdone him this season.

The highlight of the night was when Saka put Jonny Evans into a tailspin with a shake of his hips before sliding the ball across goal to set-up the Arsenal winner for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. It was a move of such breathtaking simplicity and excellence and confirmed what his form had been hinting at: this kid is special. 10 assists on the season, one of only two u-21 players to have reached double figure assists for the season; the other being the miraculous Jadon Sancho.

There’s no doubt about it: Bukayo Saka is a superstar.

2. Mr. 10%

Jamie Vardy came into this game with 101 Premier League goals, with nine of those coming against Arsenal.

Jamie Vardy left this game with 102 Premier League goals, with ten of those coming against Arsenal.

An absurd 10% of Vardy’s goals in the Premier League have come against one club: Arsenal. Well in truth it’s more like 9.8% but still, that is a staggering degree of domination. Vardy’s skill-set does match-up perfectly to Arsenal’s big weaknesses, true, but for a player to so repeatedly and systematically devour one specific side is remarkable.

It’s not just goals either, Vardy was deadly tonight creating wonderful chances for his team-mates including a goal for Kelechi Iheanacho that was ruled out because of a foul. But then also, it’s goals. Arriving like a thief in the night to stab Demarai Gray’s cross home and ensure Leicester leave North London with a point that could prove priceless in their Champions League fight. Jamie Vardy can always be relied upon to put the sword into Arsenal.

3. Dani Ceballos will run North London

When Arsenal signed Dani Ceballos on loan there wasn’t that much hype about them nabbing a player who was clearly not wanted at Real Madrid. Of course his issue in Madrid was never talent but rather some sort of failure to get on with Zinedine Zidane.

Ceballos’ time in North London hasn’t been smooth sailing; there’s been injuries and adaptation woes, but his talent has never been in question and he’s finally making good on that; today was his 8th Premier League start in a row and he was fundamental.

Ceballos tortured Leicester whilst he was on the pitch. He ran the show in the middle of the park with a superb combination of defensive determination and attacking ambition. He’d win the ball back and drive it forward too. Arsenal’s opener showcased Bukayo Saka’s brilliance but it was Ceballos’ supreme through-ball that set the youngster away down the right.

It was no coincidence that Leicester only equalised in the game after he left the field and the Gunners truly surrendered any sort of control of the match. Arsenal need to make his move permanent because given enough support Dani Ceballos will run North London.

4. Leicester show some grit at long last

Leicester’s form since the Premier League restarted had been woeful. They didn’t look anything like as sharp and vibrant as they had done in the first-half of the season. Sure they beat Crystal Palace but Palace were awful and made so many defensive errors. So when they began this game getting battered by their hosts, and going 1-0 down, you feared for them.

But for once, Brendan Rodgers’ men showed a little bit of fight. They stiffened up second-half and battled Arsenal, slowly but surely opening up the Gunners’ defence and creating chances. Then when Eddie Nketiah got sent off (and unfortunate foul but definitely a red) they didn’t let the moment slip, piling on more and more pressure until finally they broke the Gunners down and equalised, picking up a point at a ground where they had lost the previous 8 times they’d visited (even in their mighty title-winning season).

They’ve ceded third place to Chelsea, but they’ve finally shown a bit of grit and toughness that will be needed as they fight to stay in the Champions League places for the rest of the season.

5. Arsenal gonna Arsenal

With three wins in a row heading into this clash, Arsenal had just about fought their way back into the race for Champions League football. They were on the periphery of it, and they had a brutal run-in, but there was a chance (especially if Manchester City got suspended from the Champions League).

Well, there’s probably not a chance now. Sure Arsenal are only five points behind Manchester United in fifth but The Red Devils have a game in-hand that they should win to make it an eight point gap, and that’s just to fifth it’s a nine point gap (plus goal difference) to Leicester in fourth. And Arsenal aren’t even sixth because Wolves are two points ahead of them with a game in-hand. Moreover, the Gunners still have to play Spurs and Liverpool. They really, really needed to win today. But hey, Arsenal gonna Arsenal.