Bukayo Saka’s scintillating form for both club and country is eclipsing Erling Haaland’s remarkable debut season in English football and should see him crowned Premier League Player of the Year, according to England legend Stuart Pearce.
Arsenal starlet Saka, 21, has been a driving force in the Gunners’ bid to win a first Premier League title since 2004 and starred for Gareth Southgate’s impressive Three Lions over the recent international break.
Saka set up Harry Kane for his 55th international goal against Ukraine on Sunday before netting a rocket from outside the box to double the lead before the break.
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And Pearce, who earned 78 caps for his country and starred at both the 1990 World Cup and Euro 96, believes Saka’s performances should see him clinch the season’s ultimate individual accolade ahead of Haaland, who has racked up a haul of 42 goals across all competitions.
“I think he has been magnificent,” said Pearce. “Manchester City fans will say Haaland but I think Saka has been the main driving reason why Arsenal are where they are in the division.
“I was asked before the World Cup who I thought would win it and I said Arsenal, and I am sticking by that now.
“They lost [Gabriel] Jesus, and people thought there would be a problem, but they have been seamless.
“The big game is when they go to Manchester City, that will be critical for the run-in. This weekend Arsenal have a reasonable game and City play Liverpool, so it is a key weekend.
“It’s brilliant to watch them to go head-to-head.”
Saka’s dazzling performance at Wembley capped a perfect international break for Gareth Southgate’s side, who also earned an impressive 2-1 win against Italy away in Naples.
Pearce was part of the last England side that won in Naples as part of the famous Italia 90 team that squeezed past Cameroon 3-2 almost 33 years ago.
And the former full-back was particularly impressed with the first-half showing from Gareth Southgate’s men as they got their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign off to the perfect start.
“Italy away, first game is a real tough one. From my experience being an international manager, it’s not the ideal one. You normally want to put some points on the board first,” added Pearce, speaking at Pitching In Isthmian League club Marlow FC to celebrate Non-League Day on Saturday.
“To go there, win the game, set the performance that they did in the first half, it puts them in charge of the group.
“To actually deliver a performance like that, against a team ranked above us, is good because our performances against teams ranked above us needs to be better.
“There will be a little bit of frustration and a sense of unfinished business. It was maybe a missed opportunity in Qatar.
“But the experience from that, in a year and a half’s time in Germany, it will be a fantastic tournament to be involved in.
“We have put ourselves in a fantastic place in the group, need to make sure we qualify and then go from there.”
Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million-pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. For more details see: https://entaingroup.com/sustainability/pitching-in/
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