Mikel Arteta warns Bukayo Saka he must learn to protect himself as Arsenal winger looks to extend Prem games record
BUKAYO SAKA has been warned not to let himself get distracted by the Premier League’s hatchet men.
Arsenal’s marathon man has currently played more consecutive Premier League matches than any other top flight player.
And the exciting young winger has had to endure plenty of kicks along the way from rival defenders struggling to cope with his pace and trickery.
But Gunners boss Mikel Arteta was not thrilled to see Saka, 21, reacting angrily to a foul by Philippe Coutinho by shoving his rival in the chest and receiving a yellow card during last week’s 4-2 win at Aston Villa.
He said: “Bukayo needs to learn and improve how he protects himself on the pitch within the rules.
“There was a very thin line with the way he reacted last week and he cannot allow that to take him out of the game and lose his focus.
“He has been getting kicked since he was 10 years old. Wingers and talented players get fouled a lot and that’s his role in the team.
“Obviously he attracts a lot of attention. It’s totally normal for the opposition to try to stop creative players and restrict the ball getting to them. That’s a challenge he has to face every week.
“There are a lot of things we can do in training to help him learn when to take certain balls and what to do with them, how to use his body and how to jump.
“But it’s very difficult to predict what the opponent is going to do.”
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Yet in spite of all the rough stuff directed Saka’s way, the England star keeps coming back for more.
He has featured in all of Arsenal’s last 65 Premier League games stretching back to May 2021 and started all but three of them.
Arteta added: “I’m not surprised by that because I can really see his determination and where he wants to get to in this game.
“We have discussed that a lot in talks because he has the resilience and the capacity to always be available and play at a certain level.
“Bukayo has a great physical element to be able to play every three days and hopefully he can continue to do that.”
Negotiations over a lucrative new five-year contract are continuing with Saka’s representatives and the club expect to confirm a deal within the next few weeks.
Arteta, whose table-toppers travel to Leicester this afternoon, said: “It’s our responsibility to keep our best players and stick them together for a long while so we keep evolving and become a better team.”
Victory at the King Power Stadium will see Arsenal open up a five-point lead at the top of the table ahead of Manchester City’s 5.30pm kick-off at Bournemouth.
But Arteta knows that things are about to get even more hectic as the club prepares to return to Europa League duty after being handed a last-16 draw against Sporting Lisbon.
He added: “From now on we’ll be playing two games a week and that changes everything. We’re going to have much less time to train and to recover.
“We’re going to have to share many more minutes around the squad.
“That means there will be more opportunities for everyone, which is great.
“But for every game we will always pick the team we believe is best to win on the day.
“If I do something different then people will ask, ‘Why did you pick this team and we didn’t win in the Europa League?’ You’re never going to win that battle.
ARSENAL (likely): Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Odegaard, Jorginho, Xhaka, Saka, Nketiah, Martinelli.
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