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Bukayo Saka preparing to play as forward for England at Euro 2020

·3-min read
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England and Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka (Getty Images)
England and Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka (Getty Images)

Bukayo Saka is preparing to play as a forward with England this summer at Euro 2020 but the versatile Arsenal youngster is ready to do a job wherever he is needed at his first major international tournament.

The 19-year-old has been categorised as a defender and a forward on Gareth Southgate's squad lists since his first call-up in October, having started his England career as a left wing-back and transitioned to the left-hand side of the attack.

Southgate is a huge admirer of Saka, not least for this versatility, but the Arsenal teenager played as a forward in last week's pre-tournament friendly agaisnt Austria at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium, scoring his first international goal in a 1-0 win.

Saka revealed that he has been training as part of the attack at St George's Park this week, even though England are already well-stocked in forward positions with Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford all capable of playing on the same flank.

When asked whether he sees himself as a forward long-term, Arsenal's newly-crowned player of the year said: "I don't know. Anything can happen in football as we've seen in my career so far but I'm here as a forward I would say and that's where I'm training.

“It probably is important [to nail down a position] but for now I can only focus on the tournament ahead of me and however they need me to win the tournament, that's what I have to do.”

Saka also paid tribute to his former Arsenal mentor Freddie Ljungberg and thanked him for his text messages of support that he has received from the Swede as he prepares to play his first major finals.

The 19-year-old credits much of his development to Ljungberg, who worked as a coach in Arsenal's youth set-up and enjoyed a brief stint as caretaker manager in 2019 before parting ways with the club last summer.

"He has been really good with me," Saka said of Ljungberg. "From 14, when he took over my development, he challenged me in a way other coaches didn't. He pushed me and saw my potential in a way other coaches didn't.

"All the way to the under-23s he was still pushing me and even in the first team he was still helping me, even until today. He has had a big influence on my career.

"He says different things. Because he was a winger himself he had a lot of experience himself and learning points to give me.

"He texted me the other day when I scored. He wrote: 'Congratulations, and make sure you pack a few things that you would do at home and that will keep yourself entertained'.

"Because we have a good team he said he thought we were going to go far and be here a long time, because we would have a lot of free time he wanted to make sure I would keep happy.

"It is not just the football side, he is a man who helps me with my personal life as well. He is such a top guy and I really appreciate that message from him."

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