Mikel Arteta says Bukayo Saka is in the best form of his fledgeling career and is proving so important to Arsenal that it’s making it difficult to rest him.

On a frustrating night for the Gunners, the 19-year-old produced another menacing performance on the right wing eventually scoring the goal that earned a 1-1 draw against Benfica in the first leg of the Europa League last-32 tie.

“I think he’s in a great moment,” said the boss when asked about the teenager’s importance. “He’s full of confidence. He’s been really important in recent results. His form is the highest that it’s been since I’ve been here and he’s been really consistent.

“He needs to keep going and doing what he’s doing because at the moment he’s a big part of the team.”

Having played 2317 minutes across 29 appearances already, there have been some concerns that Saka’s young body might not be able to cope with the constant rigours of first team football.

While Arteta acknowledges the need to manage the Academy graduates minutes, he admits it’s hard finding the balance when he keeps producing such consistently high performances.

“I think we have to protect him and keep the expectations where they should be. But I’m not going to put a break in his development or how much he can do week in, week out.

“We have to support him, give him the best possible advice all the time and then manage his minutes so he can maintain this level.

“It is at the moment [a challenge to manage the minutes] because he’s been a real threat, he’s involved in a lot of goals all the time and the consistency of his performances makes him a starter obviously. It’s a fine balance but at the same time he’s 19 and we have to protect him.”

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LadyGooner

I mean Milel its fine to start him but he doesnt have to complete 90 every game. For example Leeds,we were 4 goals up,perfect time to take him off…yet he played full 90.

CAZORSAKANELLI

This is so true he rarely gets subbed, Mikel’s man management is lacking. Players like Saka should be protected against burnout he’s so important to this team. Probably our best player this season.

On the right path?

Possibly. But young players ‘match fitness’ improves from playing 90 minutes not 60.

Arsenetelligence

Do you have some data to support this claim?

Sac, Lac & Craic

Every football/championship manager game…

Chidi

Same fans will slag MA off for ever subbing Saka…

ItaliArteta

I can see the posts, “OMG…Arteta just subbed off our best player, we need clinical proven finishers and then this inexperienced manager pulls off the only one we have! “ OR….” OMG, Saka injured, we all knew it was going to happen. Any experienced manager and every Arsenal fan in the world would know a young player cannot continue to play so many minutes. Arteta Out! “ Perhaps we should accept that Arteta, who lived and breathed what happened to Wilshire and his career….we should trust and encourage him so much that his decisions are not influenced by the fans… Read more »

Chris

What a great comment 🙂

Gabigol

I think can can adjust the team tactics to allow players to play with less intensity. Look at how Messi gets into position by not moving as much relative to the opposition. We think of Saka as a quick player but he doesn’t run the distances that Martinelli does. He is quick in thought and give and go. I’m not comparing him to messi but his close control and speed of thought are his dangerous assets , not pace on the counter That’s why you would see players who cover more distance needing more rest time before hitting red like… Read more »

Spanish Gooner

Saka is a fantastic winger and rightly plays whenever he’s fit, but we want him to be brilliant for the next 15 years so we need to look after him. We have a £72m player who plays in his position, plus Nelson and even Martinelli if needs be, so I don’t think we can argue there’s absolutely no alternatives that we can use when he’s looking particularly leggy like in today’s second half.

Dave

Why do people keep mentioning Nelson?

Bort

…because he’s a winger who plays for Arsenal?

SarcasmB0t

No – because he’s a winger who doesn’t.

SharpasFc

Because they think he’s on the same level as Saka obviously..but clearly he isn’t or he would’ve made it by now.

Inspector norse

Then again he has clearly been better than Willian the few games he has played. I dont know what he has done too not deserve a place on a 12 man bench, behind among others the mercurial Willian.

Also obvious strawman there, nobody said Nelson is on same level as Saka.

Don Cazorleone

Because the greatest footballer in the world is always the one that isn’t playing right now

Matthinc

I think Arteta is getting a lot right, and I’m 100% behind him, but his substitutions! They leave me scratching my head. Also, not going for the win tonight in the last 20 mins. Felt sorry for Pepe and Martinelli seeing so little ball during their cameos. No idea why Pepe has been benched after he was building such momentum. He’s a frustrating player, but perfect for nights like tonight. Are least Martinelli came on rather than Eddie. Think it’s time to move him on, sadly. Not cut it at senior level.

KongoKim

What a player!!
If u read this….I love you Bukayo!

Bukayo

Yeah bro, I read it. Thumbing you up 😀

Chris

Hahahahaha

MojoWillneny

Hard to find new superlatives, prodigy…best young player in England (sorry Foden). One of the best players in the Premier League this year. Top ten young players in Europe. Nuff Sed.

Thank you Hale End!

HenryKamp

Bukayo Saka – Youngest EPL Player to have 10+ goals or assists since the start of league last year. The best is yet to come.

Biggles

Yes. Let’s hope we can get a team around him to continue to bring the best out of him. Given his good form, he’ll certainly be on the radar of the big clubs here and in Europe so MA and colleagues will have to handle him carefully.

sAMa

Xhaka, Ceballos and Elneny masters of back passes. They are part of the reason why we are in this mess.

SharpasFc

Just STOP it!

Public Elneny

Harsh on Ceballos

Biggles

Yes, I agree – certainly on his performance yesterday. I’m not a great fan of his overall (and I don’t think that it’s at all certain the club will make a bid for him in the summer) but he had a pretty good game against Benfica. Let’s hope he continues to turn in better performances.

loose_cannon

He’s statistically one of the most dangerous teenagers in Europe, if not the most dangerous. Especially impressive considering he played most of the season at LWB. Wouldn’t be against giving him a bit of a rest though, maybe starting Pepe against City instead.

Eddy F

He was great in the first half but I’d be interested to see how much he actually touched the ball in the second. Didn’t seem to be a lot.

Luiz kept ignoring Bellerin down the right and our build up went to the left more often than not.

Should’ve given it to him more as one more foul and Vertonghen would surely have been booked.

Vonnie'

I hope Mikel rests Bukayo soon, pushing him like this and the number of kicks he’s taking are a worry. Mikel needs to stop talking and start acting, I don’t want to lose Bukayo to a preventable strain because he wasn’t rested. Just one more game, just one more game, is looking for trouble. Emile too.

Santori

Certainly 7key for us particularly against City coming up with their leftback prob a weaker link. You feel with City, we need a bit of pace to hurt them as they will come at us and lay seige for long spells. Auba from left drifting in could be one weapon matched with Saka from right. Feel either Odegaard and ESR as false nines with Auba given ability to drift out wide or come in field (in lieu of ESR) may help with Ceballos and Xhaka at base. Hence… …………………..Auba………………….Odegaard……………….. ESR………………………………………………………………..Saka …………………Xhaka………………….Ceballos…………………… …..Tierney…………Gabriel……..Luiz…………………Bellerin… …………………………………Leno……………………………………. Or Laca for Odegaard in a more… Read more »

Santori

Martinelli could be a good wild card for us against City particularly late on.

His pace with Auba then switched to middle could be an asset. He also does the unexpected and has plenty of energy albeit likely he won’t last 90 given still working in from injury.

but we must have balance threat so Saka will also be key and if possible another option is Pepe later since he has been decent of late and can add something with cut in and on right foot against their left.