Rio Ferdinand’s “scary” Arsenal prediction rings true three years after observation

Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand was waxing lyrical about Arsenal pair Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli long before many other pundits had spotted their prowess Arsenal duo Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli are now two of the most feared wingers in the Premier League and Rio Ferdinand saw it coming as long as three years ago.

The young Gunners duo, whose combined age of 44 is younger than Ferdinand at 45, were both handed their debuts under Unai Emery but really cemented their status as Arsenal regulars under current boss Mikel Arteta in 2020. After one sensational display on Boxing Day of that year, during what was an otherwise dismal campaign, Ferdinand tipped the pair for big things.
Speaking after a 3-1 home victory over Chelsea, the Manchester United legend claimed: “I watched Martinelli at Bournemouth away last season, him and Saka together, they have a link up and a relationship that’s already there that I think in years to come will be a scary relationship. Scary!
They work so well together. And [Kieran] Tierney as well backing it up. But Martinelli, I have to say is going to be a tremendous footballer. Top player. He has come back into this team and he is showing what all the fuss was about before. He is going to be a huge, huge player. Massive talent. I just hope he can stay fit. Saka, him as well.”

Three years on, Ferdinand’s prediction was incredibly accurate, with Saka and Martinelli two of the first names on Arteta’s teamsheet. The pair played a vital role in last season’s title charge and though the Gunners fell short in the end, the duo ended the campaign with 14 and 15 league goals respectively.

Saka has picked up where he left off this term, with a further five goals and six assists in the league alone this term before Christmas. Martinelli has found goals a tad harder to come by, with just two league strikes to his name so far.
Both still only 22, Arsenal have convinced the pair of them to commit their long-term future to the club in recent months. Both have shown on more than one occasion they are players that can be relied upon for the big occasions.

Martinelli’s only home league goal this season came in the form of a late winner against title rivals Manchester City. Saka netted in the north London derby, as well as a number of vital, last-gasp assists to keep Arsenal’s title charge alive.

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