ONE OF the great joys for any coach – not to mention a loyal fan – is watching the rise and blossoming of young talent at their football club.
And there will be an immense feeling of satisfaction and excitement within the Arsenal youth ranks at the development of Bukayo Saka in his first year as a professional.
Against Wolves on Saturday, Saka reminded us all of his talents and maturity by scoring his fourth goal of this extended campaign.
Tonight against Leicester, in a front three of Saka, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the 18-year-old caused considerable havoc to the Foxes defence in the first half.
A perfect example of that was when Saka accelerated behind Turkish defender Caglar Soyuncu to latch on to the brilliant through-ball from the exceptional Dani Ceballos on 21 minutes.
Then a moment of skill left the experienced Jonny Evans on his knees before he passed to Aubameyang with his less-favoured right foot for the decisive goal of this Emirates clash.
At times, Leicester couldn’t handle Saka’s energy, enthusiasm, anticipation and willingness to run behind the lines.
Until he was taken off on 71 minutes, he was also a constant threat from corners, ensuring his delivery always beat the front-post marker.
What a difference to the unwillingness and ineffectiveness we often see from the poor excuse of £350,000-per-week Mesut Ozil in the Arsenal attack.
To illustrate his potency at such a young age, have a look at this stat.
Only Kevin De Bruyne (19) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (14) have more assists among Premier League players in all competitions this season than Saka (12).
Coaches have long believed that Saka, who grew up in Ealing, West London, would be destined for the top.
The youngster with 77 on his back has been used in several different positions this season but his trajectory and adaptability has been striking.
There is room for improvement, of course. Things he has to learn with age.
There were occasions on a rain-sodden evening when he lost the ball, which enabled Leicester an opportunist attack, or his first touch was lacking.
For example, it was Saka who gave away possession which led to the move when Kelechi Iheanacho scored in the first half – but to the Arsenal man’s relief the goal was ruled offside.
When you consider that his second-half replacement, the young protege Eddie Nketiah, was sent off within minutes of coming on, following a rash challenge on James Justin, you are reminded of the impetuousness of youth.
And why Saka’s performances in spite of his inexperience have been so impressive.
Jamie Vardy’s equaliser denied Arsenal a fourth straight victory and the chance to leapfrog Wolves into sixth place.
But in this form, with this confidence, both Saka and Arsenal will be in buoyant mood for Sunday’s North London Derby as they chase a European spot which had looked beyond them a few weeks ago.