When Arsenal supporters look back on the 2019/20 season in years to come, there will be plenty more grimaces than smiles.
Following a mid-season managerial change, a sea of injuries, several iconic, calamitous individual displays and general inadequacy throughout the team, the Gunners are almost certain to miss out on Champions League football for another year.
Rumours regarding the future of club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have continued to swirl – with the man himself has done little to try and slow the spread of this fire. And the recent flurry of contract renewals for the likes of David Luiz, Cedric Soares and Pablo Mari have only compounded supporters’ woes.
And yet, despite all this misery and contempt, Arsenal fans may look back at this season with glee, at potentially one of the biggest coups in the club’s recent history.
Bukayo Saka, the shining light in this never-ending tunnel of darkness, is a Gunner. And that is how he shall remain for the coming years, too. The 18-year-old has exploded onto the scene this season, blowing viewers away with his brave and exciting performances during his breakout campaign.
He has been the only player to truly escape scathing criticism from the Gunners’ fanbase thus far, and it’s not hard to see why. Everyone loves a player who climbs the ranks from a club’s academy to the first team, and his committed displays are exactly what the north London faithful have been crying out for since their decline began.
This kid has the potential to be very special, and he could be worth building a team around.
The key bit of business for Arsenal this summer then, was undoubtedly securing their current assets to long-term deals. And after months of waiting, wishing and hoping, Saka eventually put pen to paper, sending the Gunners into meltdown.
Finally, something had fallen in Arsenal’s favour. For far too long, the once Invincibles have been the butt of every joke, but at last, they got something right.
Now armed with the contract and recognition he desired, Saka was prepared to show exactly what he is made of, and what he could go on to become in the Arsenal red. And it took him less than one half of football after signing on the dotted line to solidify his status as cult hero.
Saka caused all sorts of problems on the right-hand side, putting his dazzling dibbling skills to good use and also working extremely hard for the rest of his teammates. And he was rewarded for his efforts just before half-time, scoring his first Premier League goal for the club.
And what a goal it was.
A cross from the left was deflected by a Wolves body in the penalty area, and the ball fell kindly to the young forward just inside the box. Saka still had plenty to do however, and he produced a stunning swivel and strike, crashing the bouncing ball into the top corner, before being mobbed by his teammates.
It was a crucial goal in a close game, with the Gunners running out eventual 2-0 winners over their fellow European rivals. A rare moment of joy, then.
For Mikel Arteta and Arsenal, this season has been a bit of a write off.
But there is hope in the shape of this young, exciting (if rather inconsistent) team. And at the very heart of that hope, is a boy with the weight of North London on his shoulders. Luckily, he’s completely unflappable, and doesn’t feel a thing.