Mikel Arteta reviews the PSV Eindhoven game
This weekend, Bukayo Saka will continue to make history as he extends his record for the longest run of consecutive matches by an Arsenal player in the Premier League. Saka has featured in 85 back-to-back Premier League games so far and is expected to make it 86 against Tottenham on Sunday.
The record was previously held by Paul Merson with 82 appearances from February 1995 to February 1997. But the 22-year-old put an end to Merson’s 26-year reign as Arsenal’s most durable player against Fulham last month.
Although it is no doubt impressive that Saka has been available for so many matches it does raise concerns about what effects it will have on his body in the long run.
Playing so many games at such a young age didn’t bode well for the likes of fellow Englishmen Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen, who were both plagued by injuries during their careers after stringing together long runs of first-team football as youngsters.
Despite the potential risks, Mikel Arteta can’t afford to rest his star winger with the Hale End academy graduate’s cover, Reiss Nelson, way below his level on the pitch. There was talk of the Gunners going after a right winger this summer to give Saka some time off his feet but a deal never came to fruition.
Yet Saka doesn’t seem fazed by his increasing workload and stated towards the back of last season that he will only rest once Arsenal’s campaign is wrapped up. “I’d say mentally, I’m just happy to be on the pitch.
“If I put it to you this way: would I rather be injured or on the pitch, I want to be on the pitch. If I ask myself when I was younger where I would want to be, and it was on the pitch playing for Arsenal every week competing at the highest level, I’d take it.
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“So, I’m happy. I just want to continue to push to the end of the season and then in the summer I can lock myself in my room and sleep for the rest of the summer.”
But how has Saka kept himself off the medical table for so long? According to the Telegraph, if Saka feels a niggle after a game, he will then make it his mission in the following days to fix it. His fitness is a top priority and the Englishman doesn’t cut corners when it comes to recovery.
Saka spends long stretches of his time away from the football field in his home gym following strength and conditioning programmes set by his coaches and will immediately go to the medical staff for treatment if he picks up a knock. This proactive approach has allowed him to thrive on the pitch and get the best out of his body.
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