Bukayo Saka blamed himself for Arsenal top-4 failure

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND: Bukayo Saka of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park on March 19, 2022. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Aaron Ramsdale and Bukayo Saka are rightly loving life at the moment, sitting at the top of the Premier League table with their club side and receiving call-ups for the World Cup with their national team.

But you don’t need a particularly long memory to remember when things were much different for club and country.

There was the disappointment at the Euros last summer, followed by the failure to qualify for the Champions League at the conclusion of last season. It would be easy to lose confidence for any player in those circumstances.

Fortunately, Ramsdale had prior experience with that kind of adversity, so he was able to help Saka through feeling like the top-four collapse was his fault.

“It was more through the criticism side,” Ramsdale explained. “That was probably the first time he received it. I got relegated and signing for Arsenal was a difficult period so I was able to talk him through that.

“When we missed out on the top four he felt like it was all his fault.

“He felt it was because he couldn’t provide for us and I was just able to reflect that the season before they finished eighth, this season we finished fifth, and if we go another step again we will be in the top four.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 23: Aaron Ramsdale celebrates after teammate Bukayo Saka of Arsenal (not pictured) scored their sides second goal from the penalty spot during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on April 23, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND: Aaron Ramsdale celebrates after teammate Bukayo Saka of Arsenal (not pictured) scored their side’s second goal from the penalty spot during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on April 23, 2022. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Of course, Saka was wrong to believe he was at fault for Arsenal’s finish in the first place.

The youngster had a good season overall, and in the final month of the season he had goals against Chelsea and Manchester United and assists against West Ham United and Everton.

Saka may blame himself for the blanks he did draw, in Arsenal’s five defeats in the final two months of the campaign.

But he was one of many players in an underwhelming team effort on those occasions, most of whom had much more experience than him.

The winger was certainly a net positive on Arsenal last year, and the same is clearly true again this season. He just needed the right people around him to tell him that.

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