Sometimes – but very rarely – I write the title of the blog before I’ve even jotted a word down on the page to compile my daily thoughts. Today is one of those days for sure.

Bukayo Saka showed why he is England’s best player last night. Bukayo Saka showed why Gareth Southgate appeasing Phil Foden by giving him the keys to the England car was the wrong decision. Bukayo Saka showed throughout why he is England’s threat.

And he did it whilst being doubled up on by the Swiss, whilst being starved of service at times, whilst not having a familiar sight that he is used to at Arsenal; Ben White overlapping to create space.

And last night not one of us Arsenal fans were surprised. It doesn’t matter if you are English or not, if you were invested in the result or not, if you are an Arsenal fan, you knew just what this fabulous young man is capable of and how he delivered what we must have seen at least two or three times last season, minimum.

That cut in side, jockeying a couple of defenders, then BAM! It’s a goal.

Saka’s goal even went in off the post. Those are the best kind of goals. Pure accuracy. Pure potency. Pure class. Pure Saka.

He wasn’t just an end-product merchant last night either. This wasn’t a ‘stand around and whack one in from 25 yards having done nothing all game’ performance from Saka. This was him at his best and he gave the Swiss left-hand defensive side problems all night. He was in behind three or four times that I can remember, including wriggling free of his man and cutting the ball back to Mainoo, who was thwarted by Granit Xhaka (of course) in the first half.

It was a cagey game and a game in which both sides created chances and at the end you’d probably say that a draw was the fair result. It wasn’t the most epic of matches and I thought the Netherlands against Turkey was a lot more entertaining, but Saka, Rice and his other teammates won’t care; they’re through to another semi final and have done it despite hardly convincing. And this morning I saw Guillem Balague put something on Twitter asking why England fans and the English press are so hung up on playing good football. “What does it matter if they win?” is the retort and I totally get it. But i’ll offer my opinion and my opinion alone on this, as I won’t speak for the collective, but I’ve seen this sort of stuff play out in an Arsenal context.

Remember the winning run under Emery? 22 games unbeaten and everyone – me included – were saying “who cares that we’re not playing well, that we give up chances, that we’ve had a favourable run of games, when we’re winning?” I was in that camp and had I not deep down – like every Arsenal fan – known that the way Arsenal were playing back then was not sustainable, I might today be thinking along the same lines as Balague. But I did see that Emery period and I did see that it eventually fell apart. If – and it’s a VERY BIG IF – England win the tournament, then you have to say “fair play, we all need to row back on our Southgate chastising, now” and I too will hold my hands up. But because we can all see the tactical deficiencies, because we can all see that this football is not sustainable, because we know that if you’re looking at teams like the Spanish as a blueprint for success, then this England football will only get so far. Emery’s style and approach only got so far and then eventually the truth outed itself. England and Gareth Southgate cannot lead a charmed life forever. Eventually the talent and knowledge and skill has to rise to the top.

England have, thusfar, relied on individual moments of brilliance. Whether it’s Bellingham’s overhead kick, or Saka’s great striker yesterday, they’ve relied on those one out of ten moments and that won’t work when other teams fashion more chances. Let’s remind ourselves that England’s routes to the semi’s and finals in the last four tournaments have been:

Euro 2024

  • Serbia
  • Denmark
  • Slovenia
  • Slovakia
  • Switzerland

World Cup 2022

  • Iran
  • USA
  • Wales
  • Senegal
  • France (knocked out)

Euro 2020

  • Scotland
  • Croatia
  • Scotland
  • Czech Republic
  • Germany
  • Ukraine
  • Denmark
  • Italy (losing finalists)

World Cup 2018

  • San Marino
  • Albania
  • Poland
  • Austria
  • Romania
  • Croatia (losing semi finalists)

Aside from a German side that at the time was on it’s knees as a country from a footballing perspective, that’s a pretty favourable list of teams. Southgate has led a relatively charmed life and whilst in the early days it was just nice to have England back as a competitive nature with a ‘vibes’ manager, it feels painfully obvious that if they had a guy in there who had more about him tactically, they might be doing a little better performance-wise that would have more English fans thinking it might be ‘on’. But last night he persisted with Kane despite him being pretty anonymous throughout, Foden was given all of the tools yet didn’t really deliver, Bellingham was shunted wide left and was quiet and Trent was once again not given a look in when Kyle Walker looked shaky defensively. It’s all there for Southgate to switch it up a bit, to try different things, but one of his big problems is that once he gets entrenched in playing certain players, that is it. England we better against Switzerland, but not massively so, and they really need to be better at creating chances against the Dutch because I think despite the fact they haven’t been great either in this tournament, you’d think with the players they have they’re going to create even more chances than the Swiss did.

But let’s end today’s musings on the positive notes that it started, which is that us Arsenal fans get to be smug that our Starboy once again showed why he is one of the best in the business and we can all be proud at the Arsenal player who is one of the leaders in this England team. Very happy for him this morning, I can tell you that much.

Catch you all tomorrow.