Bukayo Saka of Arsenal celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, London.

Saka stealing Maddison’s celebration is so beautifully Barclays heritage it left us teary-eyed

How do you make perhaps the most entertaining derby in the Premier League calendar even spicier? Grab the Hale End hero, have him stick a deflected shot in after 25 minutes and then steal the celebration of the opposition’s star player.

Complete and utter chaos that can only be described best as pure, unbridled Barclays, thanks to Bukayo Saka after just 25 minutes of a hotly-contested North London derby in front of a red-hot home crowd at the Emirates.

Celebration stealing is an exceptionally dark art. So dark that it very rarely comes out of its box in the world of football. A celebration is more than just a fist pump or a jump, or in this instance the throw of a dart. It’s a player’s identity, their trademark, their signature move, their brand power.

What is John Cena without his jorts and salute? What is Batista without his machine gun pyro? What is TikTok sensation Luke Bennett without N’Golo Kante supposedly hiding in his fridge? Nothing. That’s how important these trademarks are. Just look at how iconic Cristiano Ronaldo’s ‘SIUU’ has become and there’s your doubt quelled.

When Andros Townsend took the Portuguese superstar’s iconic celebration and used it for himself as Everton stunned Manchester United at Old Trafford, the footballing world stood still. So when Saka, in front of his Arsenal family, fires the Gunners in front and then takes James Maddison’s trademark arrows throw, it goes up to another level of blasphemous.

And we absolutely bloody love it.

P*ss-boiling to an extra-terrestrial scale. Think the Barclays is dying a slow, painful death? Think again.

Maddison has been nothing short of a revelation since signing for Tottenham. Alongside Ange Postecoglu, the pair have quickly become the Premier League’s biggest blue-collar heroes. The John Cena’s of the division. When he’s not stealing the show at the family roast dinner, Maddison is pulling off obscene passes and playmaking like no other, often sealing his very best moves with the throw of a dart in homage to the sport he loves most after football.

We all love his dart throw celebration, too. It’s genuinely great and refreshing in an age of handshakes and other pre-planned rubbish.

While Arsenal’s starboy is known for his outrageous talent and incredible personality, the biggest heroes often make the best villains. As soon as the ball flailed off Cristian Romero’s leg and rippled the net, Saka made a B-line for the hard camera, stared down the lens and positioned his fingers on the imaginary barrel like a prime Phil Taylor, his villainous smile as wide as land.

That right there is a man with an evil streak. An evil streak that Arsenal missed when in pursuit of the Premier League against Manchester City last season, and an evil streak that will ensure they continue to compete at the very top for as long as their very own anti-hero continues to fire twist defenders inside out, embarrass goalkeepers and claim celebrations like an infant on their first Halloween trick-or-treating excursion.

Like when Shawn Michaels screwed Bret Hart with his very own sharpshooter in Montreal, Saka screwed Maddison with a pitch-perfect throw of the dart, right down the barrel of the camera at the Emirates. It’s an exceptionally dark art, but one that lights a game on fire like nothing else when pulled out of the box.

Bukayo, we salute you, your menacing dark side and your desire to single-handedly keep the flame of the Barclays burning, one stolen celebration at a time.

By Mitch Wilks

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