Bukayo Saka earns first England start as the Three Lions triumph over Wales

Bukayo Saka made his England senior debut last night at Wembley, in the Three Lions’ 3-0 win in a friendly match against Wales, with the 19-year-old becoming Arsenal’s fourth youngest ever player to feature for the English National team.

The talented teenager was played at left wing-back and, despite having a nervous start, he became more confident and comfortable as the game went on, coming close to a debut goal in the second half after being denied by a good Wayne Hennessey save.

Saka lasted 76 minutes before he was substituted and was replaced by fellow Hale End graduate, and Arsenal team-mate, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who completed more take-ons than any other England player, despite being on the pitch for 14 minutes.

Nailing down a regular spot in the England squad is not an easy thing to do, however Saka has started well and will certainly take confidence from being picked above some of his competitors such as Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams.

Many people have felt that Saka’s England call-up was justified, having put in a number of good performances for Arsenal over the past year, and when compared statistically to his fellow competitors at left back in the league last season, it was fairly evenly matched.

Chelsea defender Ben Chilwell was called up to the England squad alongside Bukayo Saka, however the full-back joined up late with the team due to breaking coronavirus restrictions. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY THE PRIDE OF LONDON.

Saka recorded more league assists than Chilwell, Shaw and Maitland-Niles last season, whilst also completing more take-ons p90 (per 90 minutes) than the trio. However, the former Leicester City left-back created more chances p90 than the rest of his competition, and completed the most crosses too.

Luke Shaw boasts the best pass success rate of his England competitors (87.7%), and has also made the most clearances and blocks p90. Finally, Maitland-Niles has conceded the least fouls and made the highest number of blocks p90, whilst also making the most tackles and having the best cross success rate (33.3%), however he has also attempted the least.

Overall, it is interesting to see how varied Gareth Southgate’s options at left back are, with different players specialising in different areas. While it should be considered that Saka did not only play at left back in the league last season, this time period and competition is probably the best comparison metric that can be used to compare Saka to his England competitors.

Similarly to Maitland-Niles, something Saka boasts over Chilwell and Shaw is his versatility, which will certainly help him put a strong case forward to being in the England squad again. Alongside this, Saka is also extremely talented and mature for his age, and it would not be a surprise if he is playing International football for the foreseeable future.

*all stats provided by Squawka.

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