Gareth Southgate explains decision not to include Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka in England senior squad

Saka has shone for the Gunners
Saka shone for the Gunners last season (Picture: Getty Images)

Gareth Southgate suggests the reason Bukayo Saka will play for England’s Under-21s rather than the senior squad is because he sees him as more of an attacking player, rather than a left-back.

The Three Lions boss made the surprising decision not to include any left-backs in his 24-man selection for upcoming Nations League clashes against Iceland and Denmark.

Three right-backs in Kyle Walker, Kieran Tripper and Trent Alexander-Arnold were picked, and with established attackers like Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling included, Saka was denied his first call-up.

The 18-year-old enjoyed an excellent season for the Gunners and established himself as one of the brightest young talents in the Premier League, earning a long-term contract in the process.

Saka filled in expertly at left-back when Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac were sidelined through injury, and proved his versatility by playing in midfield and on either wing later in the season.

The teenager has represented England at Under-16, Under-17, Under-18 and Under-19 levels, and has now earned a spot in Aidy Boothroyd’s Under-21s squad.

When asked how close Saka was to joinig the senior set-up, Southgate told reporters: ‘He’s obviously with the Under-21s this time and I feel he’s more of an attacking player.

‘I know he’s played at left-back and he’s given good contributions there in an attacking sense certainly.

‘At the moment left wing-back, left side higher up the pitch, I know he’s played in midfield and on the right as well but that they would be his better positions. He’s a very exciting player.

‘It is still early for him but he’s a player we like and we are monitoring very closely.

‘Saka had a very good season with Arsenal, not in the team at the very end but really good season of progress and he’s a player we are watching very closely.’

Meanwhile, Saka’s Gunners team-mates Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah also make the Under-21s squad for games against Kosovo and Austria, while Joe Willock and Emile Smith Rowe miss out.

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