Saka in unstoppable form – Why Arsenal’s ‘starboy’ is pivotal to the Gunners’ title hopes


7 goals in 5 games 

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Bukayo Saka picked up the ball on the right-wing for Arsenal, turned his defender and fired the ball into the corner of the net. A sight becoming so repetitive, one could be forgiven for suspecting déjà vu. It was the case again at the Emirates on Saturday evening. At just 22 years of age, Saka is one of the world’s best wingers right now and is performing at a remarkably consistent level for Mikel Arteta’s team. His excellent strike in Arsenal’s 4-1 win against Newcastle on Saturday was Saka’s seventh goal in his last five Premier League games. As a team, Arsenal are on fire – 25 goals scored in their last six league games since the winter break, and Saka is at the epicentre of everything good for the Gunners right now. 

Arsenal are two points behind league leaders Liverpool with 12 Premier League games to be played. Saka and Arteta’s only trophy to date was the FA Cup title back in 2020. But the England international has now overtaken his best goals and assists return for a season and there’s still three months to go. The 22 year old has 28 combined goals and assists in all competitions this campaign. The Gunners led the Premier League table for 248 days last season, but fell off during the run-in. This time around they seem better equipped for a late push. Saka, nicknamed by supporters as ‘starboy’, will be key to the hopes of the North London club.

How Saka has been a star performer this season for Arsenal 

Back at the turn of the year, Saka began receiving criticism as the Gunners fell off the pace. However, that criticism was largely misdirected. Arsenal were coming off the back of consecutive losses to West Ham and Fulham that had dented their title hopes, and as the club’s star player Saka was shouldering a big proportion of the blame. Nevertheless, it has been his best performing season to date, and he’s been fairly consistent throughout the campaign. Whilst, on the opposite wing, Gabriel Martinelli has struggled to regularly deliver, Saka has always been a threat.

Throughout the season the Arsenal right-winger has never gone more than four league games without a goal or assist. There’s only been one occasion in which Saka has even been more than two games without a goal or assist, and that was the four game run between the loss to Aston Villa and the defeat to West Ham in December. That small lapse in form can also be primarily put down to tiredness, with Saka playing so much football for the Gunners due to their reliance on him. Since the short winter break, the winger has looked reinvigorated. 

As can be seen in the table above, when you compare Saka’s goal contributions this season in all competitions to other wingers, no one can better the Englishman in the top five leagues. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is the only player level on combined goals and assists. This shows just how effective the Arsenal man has been this season. At 22 years of age, he will still likely only further improve. A frightening prospect for Arsenal’s competitors. Saka has a current market value of €120m – the highest among all wingers in the division. Saka is also the second most valuable player in the Premier League behind Erling Haaland, and even the fifth most valuable in world football.

 

Goals and assists aren’t the only metric in which you can see Saka’s impact. The only player that can beat Saka’s 77 shots in the Premier League is Haaland with 78. Highlighting the constant threat the Arsenal winger poses. When it comes to dribbles, only Jérémy Doku and Raheem Sterling have completed more than Saka in the Premier League this term. It’s very rare that the England international isn’t heavily involved in games, and despite lots of opposition clubs getting players to double up on Saka, he is still finding a way to be effective and cause problems. 

“When you talk about consistency at his age, what he has done in the last two or three seasons is remarkable.” said manager Arteta speaking about Saka, after the winger hit a brace against West Ham in early February. Arteta continued, “His attitude, his quality, what he delivers every week… it’s really difficult to find. That’s why he is so important to us.” From the Hale End academy to a global superstar, there’s no doubt Saka is irreplaceable for Arsenal, and just because football fans have become so used to the 22 year old performing week-in week-out, Saka’s outstanding displays should not be taken for granted. 

The 100 most valuable players in the world

100 Cody Gakpo | Liverpool | €50m

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99 Reece James | Chelsea | €50m

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98 Jeremie Frimpong | Bayer Leverkusen | €50m

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97 Jonathan David | Lille | €50m

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96 Amadou Onana | Everton | €50m

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95 Anthony Gordon | Newcastle | €50m

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94 Gonçalo Ramos | Paris Saint-Germain | €50m

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93 Santiago Gimenez | Feyenoord | €50m

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92 Michael Olise | Crystal Palace | €50m

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91 Nico Williams | Athletic | €50m

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90 Roméo Lavia | Chelsea | €50m

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89 Alejandro Balde | Barcelona | €50m

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88 Mathys Tel | Bayern Munich | €50m

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87 Marcus Thuram | Inter Milan | €55m

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86 Ben White | Arsenal | €55m

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85 Theo Hernández | AC Milan | €55m

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84 Matheus Nunes | Manchester City | €55m

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83 Kai Havertz | Arsenal | €55m

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82 Loïs Openda | RB Leipzig | €55m

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81 Dejan Kulusevski | Tottenham | €55m

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80 Levi Colwill | Chelsea | €55m

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79 Kevin de Bruyne | Manchester City | €60m

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78 Marquinhos | Paris Saint-Germain | €60m

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77 João Palhinha | Fulham | €60m

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76 Ollie Watkins | Aston Villa | €60m

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75 Min-jae Kim | Bayern Munich | €60m

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74 Ousmane Dembélé | Barcelona | €60m

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73 Gabriel Magalhães | Arsenal | €60m

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72 Dayot Upamecano | Bayern Munich | €60m

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71 Jules Koundé | Barcelona | €60m

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70 Douglas Luiz | Aston Villa | €60m

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69 Alessandro Bastoni | Inter Mian | €60m

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68 Moussa Diaby | Aston Villa | €60m

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67 Dusan Vlahovic | Juventus | €60m

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66 Takefusa Kubo | Real Sociedad | €60m

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65 Manuel Ugarte | Paris Saint-Germain | €60m

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64 Nuno Mendes | Paris Saint-Germain | €60m

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63 Warren Zaïre-Emery | Paris Saint-Germain | €60m

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62 Lamine Yamal | Barcelona | €60m

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61 Mohamed Salah | Liverpool | €65m

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60 Kingsley Coman | Bayern Munich | €65m

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59 Lucas Paquetá | West Ham | €65m

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58 Cristian Romero | Tottenham | €65m

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57 Achraf Hakimi | Paris Saint-Germain | €65m

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56 Alexis Mac Allister | Liverpool | €65m

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55 Matthijs de Ligt | Bayern Munich | €65m

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54 Darwin Núñez | Liverpool | €65m

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53 Jérémy Doku | Manchester City | €65m

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52 Rasmus Højlund | Manchester United | €65m

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51 Evan Ferguson | Brighton | €65m

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50 Bruno Fernandes | Manchester United | €70m

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49 Jack Grealish | Manchester City | €70m

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48 James Maddison | Tottenham | €70m

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47 Marcus Rashford | Manchester United | €70m

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46 Gabriel Jesus | Arsenal | €70m

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45 Trent Alexander-Arnold | Liverpool | €70m

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44 Éder Militão | Real Madrid | €70m

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43 Randal Kolo Muani | Paris Saint-Germain | €70m

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42 Alexander Isak | Newcastle | €70m

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41 Ronald Araujo | Barcelona | €70m

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40 Alphonso Davies | Bayern Munich | €70m

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39 Xavi Simons | Rb Leipzig | €70m

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38 Joshua Kimmich | Bayern Munich | €75m

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37 Nicolò Barella | Inter Milan | €75m

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36 Christopher Nkunku | Chelsea | €75m

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35 Luis Díaz | Liverpool | €75m

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34 Dominik Szoboszlai | Liverpool | €75m

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33 William Saliba | Arsenal | €75m

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32 Bernardo Silva | Manchester City | €80m

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31 Leroy Sané | Bayern Munich | €80m

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30 Rúben Dias | Manchester City | €80m

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29 Frenkie de Jong | Barcelona | €80m

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28 Khvicha Kvaratskhelia | Napoli | €80m

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27 Enzo Fernández | Chelsea | €80m

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26 Josko Gvardiol | Manchester City | €80m

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25 Bruno Guimarães | Newcastle | €85m

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24 Gabriel Martinelli | Arsenal | €85m

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23 Martin Ødegaard | Arsenal | €90m

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22 Rafael Leão | AC Milan | €90m

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21 Aurélien Tchouaméni | Real Madrid | €90m

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20 Julián Álvarez | Manchester City | €90m

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19 Moisés Caicedo | Chelsea | €90m

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18 Eduardo Camavinga | Real Madrid | €90m

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17 Pedri | Barcelona | €90m

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16 Gavi | Barcelona | €90m

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15 Federico Valverde | Real Madrid | €100m

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14 Rodrygo | Real Madrid | €100m

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13 Florian Wirtz | Bayer Leverkusen | €100m

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12 Harry Kane | Bayern Munich | €110m

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11 Rodri | Manchester City | €110m

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10 Lautaro Martinez | Inter Milan | €110m

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9 Victor Osimhen | Napoli | €110m

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8 Declan Rice | Arsenal | €110m

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7 Phil Foden | Manchester City | €110m

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6 Jamal Musiala | Bayern Munich | €110m

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5 Bukayo Saka | Arsenal | €120m

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4 Vinicius Jr | Real Madrid | €150m

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3 Kylian Mbappé | Paris Saint-Germain | €180m

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2 Erling Haaland | Manchester City | €180m

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1 Jude Bellingham | Real Madrid | €180m

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