Bukayo Saka responded to “being kicked” discussions amid a growing consensus among Arsenal fans that he is being unfairly singled out by defenders.
- Saka shining in Arsenal’s title-charge
- Being targeted by opposition defenders
- Forward not bothered and focused on improving
WHAT HAPPENED? Saka is one of the first names on the teamsheet for Mikel Arteta and has played a key role in the Gunners’ rise to the top of the Premier League table. He has 19 goal contributions this season in 27 appearances and shouldered extra responsibility in the final third while Gabriel Jesus was out injured. As his influence continues to grow in games, he is facing the brunt of opposition defenders. In Arsenal’s recent win over Aston Villa, he was on the receiving end of several crunching tackles which led him to lose his cool and shove Philippe Coutinho and Douglas Luiz. However, the England international is not overly concerned about the rough treatment he is subjected to, and instead wants to focus on improving his game.
WHAT THEY SAID: The forward told the Evening Standard after receiving Young Player of the Year at the London Football Awards. “People know me more now, I’ve played more and more football, more and more at the higher levels as well, so they will know more what my game is about. So they will be setting up plans to stop me, of course, and foul me and stuff like that. It is normal for most wingers. The same happens for most of the other wingers in our team when they play. I just have to keep adapting, learn how to play one-versus-one, two-versus-one, three-versus-one, whatever it is.
“Just keep developing. That’s the beauty of the game. There’s always going to be something different every week. It is about me trying to break it down and, ultimately, winning the game.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Saka has been fouled 45 times this Premier League season, but has only drawn four yellow cards for opposition defenders. The Arsenal star feels that it makes little sense to complain to referees about the issue, but has admitted that club officials have conveyed their concerns to PGMOL. “I can’t come out here and start complaining that I’m getting fouled,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense, I’m not going to get anywhere with it. Arsenal have had the meetings they need to have with the referees and stuff like that. I feel like we just need to take it from there and see where that gets us. The way I play, I’m always going to attract contact.”
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WHAT NEXT FOR SAKA? The forward will look to continue his impressive form when Arsenal host Sporting in a crucial Europa League round of 16 second leg fixture on Thursday.