Few Arsenal supporters would have predicted the 2020/21 season to be as much as a car crash as it turned out to be. But there were some bright spots in what was ultimately a year to forget.
The January transfer window saw the club ship off a considerable amount of deadwood in the form of Mesut Ozil, Sokratis and Shkodran Mustafi. And the likes of Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock were sent out on loan and reached new heights as Premier League players.
Yet the one main shining light that supporters are reflecting on is the development of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe in the first team.
The Hale End duo have been vital players for Mikel Arteta this season. With Smith Rowe’s Premier League start against Chelsea on Boxing Day often regarded as the turning point in the campaign.
A summer with England for Saka
Despite rumours beforehand that Saka would be dropped from Gareth Southgate’s England squad, the 19-year-old winger was included in the Three Lions 26-man team for this summer’s Euros.
Saka made it into the squad over the likes of Ollie Watkins, Jesse Lingard and James Ward-Prowse, and becoming Arsenal’s sole representative for England this summer. And in doing so, the teenager kept the Gunners reputation with the home nation intact.
Arsenal’s history of England internationals in recent years isn’t an impressive one. In the 2018 World Cup, Danny Welbeck was the only player selected to go to Russia. For Euro 2016, only Jack Wilshere made the 23-man squad.
And this summer will again see just a sole member of the Arsenal squad represent the club for England.Embed from Getty Images
Yet Saka’s inclusion could be the beginning of something wonderful for both the Gunners and the Three Lions.
Re-establishing Arsenal’s England heritage
Arsenal used to be one of the main sources of manpower and talent for the England national team. Indeed, Tony Adams was captain of the Three Lions for Euro 96, whilst the likes of Sol Campbell and Martin Keown held vice-captain roles during their international careers.
Yet as previously mentioned, Arsenal’s presence in the England squad in the past 15 years has been minimal.
The aforementioned Welbeck and Wilshere only ever managed minor squad roles. Whilst the likes of Carl Jenkinson and Calum Chambers have a combined four international caps between them.
But things seem to be changing at Arsenal. The start of last season saw Ainsley Maitland-Niles handed his first England senior call-up. Whilst the likes of Smith Rowe and Willock could also receive the call if they continue to flourish.
The Gunners might just have Saka representing England this summer. But there is a good chance that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar could see several Arsenal players represent the Three Lions in a new era of international dominance.