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MARTIN KEOWN: Fearless Bukayo Saka should keep his place if England stick with 4-2-3-1

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MARTIN KEOWN: Fearless Bukayo Saka should keep his place if England stick with 4-2-3-1 in the knockouts… the Arsenal forward is mature beyond his years and knows he belongs at this level

In Arsenal‘s 4-0 Europa League win over Slavia Prague in April, Bukayo Saka tormented the opposition left back so much that he needed substituting after 45 minutes. 

That was Jan Boril, the experienced Czech Republic international who had the sorry job of trying to tie down Saka on Tuesday night all over again. There was only ever going to be one winner in that scenario, and it was the England starlet. 

Saka was involved in the build-up to the opening goal, switching play from the right to the left before Jack Grealish crossed and Raheem Sterling scored. Those three together are game-controllers. 

Bukayo Saka gave Czech Republic full-back Jan Boril a torrid time at Wembley on Tuesday

They control their opponents with their movement and what they do on the ball. Their presence ensured England’s No 9 Harry Kane could remain further up the pitch. Saka will come short, receive possession under pressure and then happily take the game to the opposition. 

He’s fearless that way. Saka hasn’t always remained in the Arsenal starting line-up when he should have. If England stand by 4-2-3-1 in the knockout stages, then I’d like to see Saka starting again. 

He’s an outstanding attacker but also a fine defender. He’s got bags of energy and has shown his versatility in being used as a wing-back as well as a forward under Gareth Southgate. 

The Arsenal forward was involved in the build-up to the opening goal from Raheem Sterling

The Arsenal forward was involved in the build-up to the opening goal from Raheem Sterling

The 19-year-old has shown his versatility for England under manager Gareth Southgate

The 19-year-old has shown his versatility for England under manager Gareth Southgate

England’s manager decided to rest Phil Foden against the Czechs and decided he wanted to stick with a left-footer on the right wing. Saka came in and took his chance to impress. 

The 19-year-old is mature beyond his years. The only time I think I’ve ever seen any signs of nerves in the teenager was on his England debut. That was probably when it all hit home – the magnitude of how far he’d come in such a short space of time. 

But now he knows he belongs at this level, having started for England at Euro 2020 and taken over the game with his talent. 

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