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Arsenal verdict: Bukayo Saka shows England credentials as he keeps Mo Salah at bay for an hour

BUKAYO SAKA played in a blockbuster of a Carabao Cup tie in the same round last season.

Since then he has changed a lot and so has his club Arsenal.

Rex Features
Saka had his hands full tracking back for Salah – but put on another impressive showing [/caption]

The teenage defender took to the pitch at Liverpool on a high having received his first England senior call-up – just a month after making his debut for the Under 21s.

It’s a moment of celebration for the player and Arsenal who are slowly but steadily maturing much like their highly regarded young defender.

Saka, 19, played in the breathless 5-5 fourth round draw at Anfield that went to penalties and played a significant role in the eventual downfall of Arsenal boss Unai Emery.

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Mikel Arteta has since replaced him at the helm and there was no way the new-look Arsenal were going to play any part in any kamikaze cup football this time around.

The anticipated Liverpool onslaught failed to materialise, with wing back Saka playing his part in keeping Mo Salah at bay for more than an hour, eventually forcing the illustrious Egyptian to call it a night early.

Saka also added his weight to the visitors’ attack in a game which doubled as his England audition.

The left back or left wing back position is not as blessed as it is on the opposite flank for the England team.

Confirmed right back Kieran Trippier was forced to play there in the last two internationals against Iceland and Denmark.

Ironically, Saka is vying for his England place in direct competition with his club mate Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

The football at Anfield was nowhere near as high octane as the chaotic night last October when Liverpool eventually won on penalties. But the defeat left a big impression on the Arsenal squad.

They would not win again until December 9 when they beat West Ham.

It is also interesting to note that before kick off Arsenal had conceded more goals at Liverpool’s fortress than any other Premier League team since boss Jurgen Klopp took charge in 2015 – a whopping 26.

Arsenal are a different prospect nowadays and while it might not be as exciting to watch for the neutral, Arteta and Saka will be delighted with the way they held out for so long against the Premier League champions.

Saka will be just as pleased that just a moment after going down with cramp in his own area during yet another tussle with Wales’ Nico Williams who he may face next week, he was setting up Pepe for a shot on goal.

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