If you hadn’t noticed, Bukayo Saka gets kicked a lot when he plays football. Arsenal fans don’t like it very much, particularly given his importance to the team and because he’s a young homegrown lad with the most innocent of faces.
If anything, the supporters are more anxious about the treatment meted out to the 21-year-old than his own manager who at regular intervals this season has told the player he just needs to accept the situation.
At Villa Park on Saturday, Saka finally lost his rag. Having already been on the wrong end of several physical challenges – including one that sent his boot flying – he reacted angrily to a tackle from behind by Philippe Coutinho and picked up a booking for shoving Douglas Luiz.
It was more of the same in the second half when further fouls left him requiring assistance from the medical team. Thankfully, with the help of some heavy strapping, he managed to complete the win.
Still, the question remains, should he be better protected by the officials?
“I’m sure every referee tries to protect the game and the individuals in the best possible way,” said Arteta.
“Obviously there is a lot of attention now on Bukayo and we need to keep that in mind, as well as a team with the plans that we put together, understanding what the opponents are doing. For sure, the referee has the responsibility and they have to do their jobs.”
He added: “We cannot control what the opponent is going to do or the referee’s decision in a split second, it’s something we cannot control. We have to focus on how we can help him become a better player and be more efficient.”
Interestingly, he opened up on what the club are doing to help Saka cope better with opponents who look to mark him closely.
“We have to train him in when to take certain balls, what to do with that ball, how to use his body, when to jump, there’s a lot of things that we can train but obviously it’s very difficult to understand what the opponent is going to do.”
While training players to cope on a physical level is one thing, it’s clear there’s also a mental angle at play. Arteta really doesn’t want Saka or any of his other creative players developing a persecution complex and would rather they just roll with the punches.
“If you ask him [Saka] how it was when he was 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, I don’t think it was very different. Wingers and talented players get kicked, get fouled and are demanded to win games. That’s a task that he has, that’s his role in the team.
“He attracts a lot of attention like Gabby Martinelli or Gabby [Jesus] when he plays or Eddie [Nketiah] or Martin [Odegaard]. It’s normal that people want to stop creative players or restrict them or stop them occupying certain spaces, what we have to do is the complete opposite.”
The only three tactics that seem to work against us (and two of them are cheating).
We must be doing something right.
The most feared team in the EPL?
Never in any doubt.
The Tony Pulis effect.
Try rotational fouling on the player attacking Saka.
problem is that this team are so good the opposition never have the ball to foul them…!
Refs could also do with handing out a few more cards, first challenge fair enough, but 2-3+ & no punishment, no wonder it’s be a reoccurring theme this season, very luck he’s not one of our injury prone player’s. (Said whilst touching a fence post)
DB10 sent me to smite you down, but that fence touching thing saved you in all honesty.
Shouldn’t referees be trained on detection of rotational fouling becaue it is in fact cheating.
You could have stopped at:
“Shouldn’t referees be trained”
Difference is when you’re 10, 11, 12 etc. your opponents’ tackles are half as strong at best and your joints are softer and less likely to break. At this level we just can’t allow defenders to play like that or you risk the same happening to him as happened to Diaby, Eduardo, Ramsey and Wilshere, all players who were about as skilled as him on the ball and frustrated slow-witted oafish defenders who were unable to do anything with them other than break their legs. I have no illusions the FA gives a crap about Arsenal but if they don’t… Read more »