Bukayo Saka reveals Arteta’s strategy to protect him from rough treatment and injury
Bukayo Saka, the prominent player for Arsenal, is not complaining despite receiving rough treatment from opponents this season. Arsenal has contacted the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) to discuss some of the tackles. Additionally, Saka is learning from a role model within the Arsenal team.
Bukayo Saka, the 21-year-old forward for Arsenal, has shared that he looked up to former Arsenal player Alexis Sanchez during his upbringing, and he is now using Sanchez’s fighting spirit as inspiration after experiencing rough treatment from opponents this season.
Saka, who emerged from the Hale End academy, has been instrumental in Arsenal’s surprising run for the title, contributing 10 goals and nine assists so far this campaign. While Saka’s impact on the team goes beyond statistics, he has paid a significant physical toll for his performances since breaking into the first team at Emirates Stadium.
Due to Saka’s style of play, which involves frequently dribbling past defenders, he has been subjected to numerous rough challenges. As a result, Saka is currently tied for eighth place in the Premier League’s list of most targeted players, having been fouled 45 times this season. Surprisingly, despite the high number of fouls against him, only four yellow cards have been shown for tackles on him, averaging out to one yellow card per 11.25 fouls made against him.
This is significantly less than the average number of yellow cards given per foul for Jack Grealish, who is the second-most fouled player in the league at 4.9. Arsenal has even contacted the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL) regarding the rough treatment that Saka has received, but he doesn’t seem too bothered by it.
In an interview with The Evening Standard, Saka expressed that he doesn’t want to complain about the fouls he’s been subjected to, as it wouldn’t achieve anything. He acknowledged that Arsenal has already held meetings with referees regarding the issue, and he believes they should continue to work on finding a solution to the problem.
“The way I play, I’m always going to attract contact. I watched Alexis Sanchez a lot growing up. He was a special player, I loved many things about him. That’s one of the qualities he had — he always got up, fought to the end. You could say I took that from him, but at the same time I have my own goals and ambitions. That’s also [part of] my drive.”
In addition to contacting the PGMOL, Saka disclosed that Arteta has instructed his teammates to avoid passing the ball to him in crowded areas to protect him as they approach the title run-in. Saka also mentioned that Arteta has discussed the type of balls he receives as a winger, advising him to avoid receiving the ball on the touchline with his back to the defender to reduce the amount of pressure and physical contact he faces from opponents.
“I think he’s talking about those type of balls, the type of balls where I don’t have much space to manoeuvre and the defender can close me down quickly and be really aggressive.”