There was a collective intake of breath from the Emirates crowd when Bukayo Saka hit the turf in pain in the closing stages of Arsenal’s 1-0 win over PSV Eindhoven.
The winger had just attempted an effort after a mazy dribble across the box but then collapsed in a heap holding his leg. Had he pulled a hamstring, tweaked his thigh, twisted his knee? Nobody could tell exactly but the universal assumption was that he’d be removed from the fray immediately. It didn’t happen that way.
After getting to his feet and gingerly jogging up the touchline, he asked to come back on and played another 10 minutes in second gear, occasionally rubbing the area of concern, before his number was finally signalled from the touchline. By that point, two other substitutions had already been made.
Given Arsenal play every three days at the moment, it seemed like an unnecessary risk but afterwards manager Mikel Arteta was bullish about his decision and whether his young star can be expected to perform at his best every three days.
“He got a kick, he was limping a little bit but hopefully he will be fine,” explained the Spaniard.
“Look at the top players in the world, they play 70 matches and every three days and make the difference and win the game.
“You want to be at the top, you have to be able to do that. If we start to put something different in the minds of our young players I think we are making a huge mistake because then it’s one yes, one no, now I don’t play, on astroturf I don’t play, I don’t want that.
“I want them to be ruthless every three days. They are going to be knocking on my door, [saying] ‘I want to play, I want to win the game.'”
He added: “There is not a fitness coach in the world who is going to tell me that they cannot do it because I’ve seen it. 72 games, score 50 goals. The players don’t score 50 goals if they play 38 games in the season, it’s impossible.”
Here’s hoping someone runs Saka a nice warm bath when he gets home, it doesn’t sound like he’ll be getting rested anytime soon.