Football News

Don’t underestimate Pepe-esque Bukayo Saka’s impact in Man Utd 1-1 Arsenal, says Martin Keown

By Ben Green

Published: 16:59, 1 October 2019

Martin Keown says Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka looked like he was the club’s record signing against Manchester United, and not Nicolas Pepe.

The 18-year-old set up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the Gunners’ equaliser in their 1-1 draw against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men on Monday night.

Saka against Man Utd: Five things to know…

  • Saka made his fourth appearance of the season against Man Utd on Monday night.
  • In his second consecutive Premier League start he registered an assist as Arsenal drew 1-1.
  • Record signing Pepe, meanwhile, failed to impress and was taken off before Saka.
  • Saka became the youngest player to start a Premier League game between Arsenal and Man Utd.
  • Keown believes the youngster outshone Arsenal’s £72m signing.

Since completing a £72m move from Lille over the summer, Pepe is yet to truly exhibit the kind of quality that drew widespread attention across Europe last season.

Meanwhile Saka has come into his own, playing a key role in games against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League and the Red Devils at Old Trafford.

It was the Londoner’s first-time pass that sent Aubameyang racing through to collect a valuable point for Arsenal, and Keown has now given a glowing appraisal of the talented teenager.

In his column for the Daily Mail, he wrote: “With one touch, he put Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang through.

“It looked easy, but do not underestimate this pass. It was the earliness of that ball which hurt United. He read the situation.

“Harry Maguire was trying to race back because he was playing his opponent onside. Saka had to be quick, and he was.

“He fed Aubameyang, and it became 1-1. Arsenal look like they have unearthed a gem in Saka. He looked like the £72million winger on show.

“That is not meant as a dig at Nicolas Pepe, their summer signing from Lille, but rather a compliment for Saka. Only a deflection denied him scoring the winner, too. What a talent he looks.”

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Saka and Pepe against Man Utd

One of the big talking points from Monday night’s bout was the contrast in performance from academy graduate Saka and record signing Pepe, with many unimpressed in the latter’s showing in the North West.

Jamie Carragher also echoed those views when discussing the two performances on Sky Sports after the match, believing Saka is displaying more than just an ability in the final third, but also showing a tendency to get involved in the more aggressive side of the game.

Carragher said: “The biggest compliment you can give him is that he [Unai Emery] took [Nicolas] Pepe off when he could have brought the young lad off. 18, Old Trafford away from home but he takes the big money signing off.

“He was actually involved in physical battles and he’s willing to go at them. I saw him for the first time against Eintracht Frankfurt, he looked dangerous and aggressive, he was unfortunate to come off against Aston Villa because of the red card.

“The composure and the quality to make the pass to Aubameyang but also the understanding to sense danger for Manchester United.”