Ian Wright explains why Bukayo Saka should start on the bench for Arsenal against Chelsea

Bukayo Saka looks on during Arsenal's Premier League clash with Aston Villa
Bukayo Saka has had an outstanding season at Arsenal (Picture: Getty)

Arsenal legend Ian Wright believes Mikel Arteta should start with experience against Chelsea in the FA Cup final and allow the likes of Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah to make an impact off the substitutes bench.

Saka, 18, burst onto the scene midway through last season has been among Arsenal’s standout players this term, racking up three goals and 11 assists in all competitions across the campaign.

The teenager put an end to months of speculation surrounding his future as he put pen to paper on a new long-term contract earlier this month, with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool keeping close tabs on the situation at the Emirates.

Fellow academy product Nketiah, 21, has also shone for the Gunners in recent months and has been putting pressure on Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe for a place in Arteta’s starting XI since the season restarted.

Former Arsenal striker Wright says the young duo have shown that they can ‘deal with anything’ since breaking into the first-team but feels Arteta would be wise to start with Lacazette and Pepe supporting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up front.

‘I think he’ll probably go with experience because I think if you start Saka or Eddie – and this is just my opinion – it wouldn’t surprise me if he started Saka because he seems like he can deal with anything and it’s the same with Eddie, they look like they can probably deal with anything,’ Wright told Arseblog.

‘But if you start a young player in a final like this and it’s not going right and they have to get substituted somewhere along the line, it could have some damage there with people and how they may judge their character in respects of a big game.

Ian Wright looks on during England's clash with Norway
Wright thinks Arteta should go with experience against Chelsea (Picture: Getty)

‘For me, I’d probably start them on the bench because even me, as an ex-player, when I came off the bench for Palace all those years ago, I was so excited about coming off the bench and I was an older player and you feel like you don’t have anything to lose.

‘You’ve only got things to gain because if you come on and you make a difference, people will say: “He came on and he changed the game”. If you come on and score a goal, people will say, “Brilliant!” and you feel brilliant, ready for the next big occasion.’

‘I think to start for this one, depending on how Chelsea start because they could fly out the blocks and really try and blast us, I think it wouldn’t be a bad thing to go with experience so he probably would go with Pepe, Lacazette and Aubameyang.

‘We’ll have Xhaka in there maybe, Ceballos, I don’t know what’s happening with Torreira but I feel those guys I’ve mentioned will definitely be playing. And obviously Mikel is far more tactically astute than I am, he might have a plan up his sleeve.’

Wright says winning the cup final would be an ‘unbelievable’ achievement for Arsenal, considering the state the club was in when Arteta took over the reins from Unai Emery.

Asked whether the occasion will be ‘diminished’ with Wembley having no fans in the stands, Wright replied: ‘No, simply because we have to accept it for what it is.

‘Of course an FA Cup final without the fans and football without the fans is not proper football. We’re just finishing off right now. It’s not football and I don’t know how I’d deal with it because I need the fans, I need the energy of the fans.

‘But for me and what Arsenal have gone through since Mikel coming in and what we’ve achieved as a team, we look better and more organised and you just have to feel that with the right tools we’re going to get to a place where we’re gonna be a lot happier.

‘He’s calmed the whole of the Arsenal world down with his communication. The owners, the fans, everybody is positive right now.

‘I think we have to win this game simply because of where we are and we need to be in Europe. I hearing about contract talks are being put on pause simply because they want to see what happens in this game so there’s a lot riding on the game.

‘Chelsea have achieved their goal, they achieved Champions League and this is kind of for Frank [Lampard] to put silverware on the table and it would be a magnificent season for them.

‘But for us and everything we’ve gone through with Mikel coming in at Christmas – one of the most difficult times to deal with anything let alone a new manager – and get to where we are in the cup now, it will be unbelievable.

‘And fans or no fans, I think Arsenal fans would have to take that and say they would take that in those circumstances.’

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