Mikel Arteta admits that Bukayo Saka could probably do with a rest, amid fears of burnout and injury.
The 19-year-old has started 18 of Arsenal’s last 20 Premier League games, completing 90 minutes on 16 occasions. He’s also made cameos off the bench in two FA Cup games since the turn of the year and played the full 180 minutes against Benfica.
Amazingly, even in the closing stages of Thursday’s clash with the Portuguese side, he was still able to make the difference, delivering a second precise assist for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to snatch a late win.
“At some point, ideally, yes,” said Arteta when asked if he might sideline his precocious winger.
“On Thursday night at some stages in the game, we were thinking about that, because you can see it.
“It is not only him, there are a lot of players who have played so many minutes, you could see the Benfica players and you could sense the fatigue and the changes they had to do straight away.
“But obviously when things go well the energy that creates sometimes overcomes fatigue, and I prefer not to talk too much about fatigue.
“If we have to rest players, we have to rest them, because we have to keep them fit as much as possible but as well you have to develop that mental toughness that you need when you are in competitions you want to win.”
Asked whether squad fatigue was a concern given the amount of football his side have played in the last 12-months, Arteta was quick to point out that notions of tiredness are often mental rather than physical. As such, he doesn’t want his players using it as an excuse not to do the basics.
“If we have to rest players we have to rest them because we have to keep them fit as much as possible,” he added.
“But as well you have to develop that mental toughness that you need when you are in competitions you want to win.
“That is why if you say: ‘I’m fatigued, I cannot do it’ – no, of course you can do it,” he added.
“There are things and professions that are much harder than ours where people keep on going and going – when someone is running a marathon and chasing somebody.
“There are so many good examples we can use so fatigue is a lot of times mental, because if things go well and you score a goal, I’m sure you will still have the energy to sprint and celebrate that goal.
“But when you have to track someone back, you say you’re tired? I don’t really agree with that, if you are on that pitch – until you are absolutely done – you have to give your best.”