Arteta insists Saka has to 'protect himself' from rough treatment

‘He needs to learn and improve that’: Mikel Arteta insists Arsenal star Bukayo Saka has to ‘protect himself’ from rough treatment from opponents as he can’t rely on referees to help him

  • Mikel Arteta says Bukayo Saka needs to learn how to protect himself 
  • The Arsenal winger has been on the receiving end of many rough challenges 
  • Arteta says it’s normal attacking players will attract attention from opponents

Mikel Arteta has warned Bukayo Saka that he cannot rely on referees to shield him from rough treatment, insisting: ‘The first one who has to protect Bukayo is himself.’ Saka reacted angrily during Arsenal’s victory over Aston Villa last week, shoving Philippe Coutinho following another hefty challenge.

Ahead of Saturday’s visit to Leicester, where Arsenal can stretch their lead to five points, Arteta suggested Saka relishes the physical ‘challenge’ posed by defenders. But the manager reminded the 21-year-old of the dangers of losing his temper.

‘There’s many ways to (protect yourself) on a football pitch – within the rules – and he needs to learn and improve that. He reacted in a way but that line is extremely thin and that cannot take him out of his game and lose the focus,’ Arteta said. 

‘But he can help that, as well, to have more focus, more determination, more belief for the next action. So it’s something he needs to do.’ 

Arteta added: ‘He needs to learn when to take certain balls, what to do with that ball, how to use his body, when to jump… if you ask him how it used to be when he was 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 – it isn’t very different. Wingers and talented players get kicked and fouled and get the demand to win games and that is the chance he has, that is his role in the team.’ 

Mikel Arteta says Bukayo Saka has to learn how to protect himself from rough challenges

Arteta says Saka can learn how to take certain balls and when to jump to avoid fouls

There is a growing frustration among supporters who believe the winger is being unfairly treated – and referees are being unfairly lenient. Saka has won 40 fouls in the Premier League this season but they have resulted in only four bookings. Saka himself has been carded five times. 

‘It is normal creative players want to be stopped,’ Arteta said. ‘It’s a challenge he’s going to face with every opponent in front of him and he wants to win that challenge.’ 

The manager added: ‘I’m sure refs want to protect every game and individuals in the best possible way. There is a lot of focus now on Bukayo, and we need to keep that in mind as a team with the plans that we put together, understanding what the opponents are doing. But for sure referees have their responsibilities and they have to do their jobs.’ 

Arteta praised the determination and resilience that Saka has demonstrated for Arsenal

As revealed by Sportsmail, Saka is close to signing a new contract worth a minimum £10million a year. It is reward for his remarkable performances and consistency. Despite being targeted by defenders, the winger has played in 65 consecutive league games – the longest streak of any player in the division. 

That ‘resilience’ does not surprise Arteta. ‘No, because I really see his determination and where he wants to get (to),’ the manager said. ‘We have discussed that a lot in individual talks with him and he really wants to get there. He will have that resilience and that capacity to constantly show a certain level and always be available.’

Meanwhile, Thomas Partey could return at Leicester after missing a couple of matches with a thigh injury. 

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