EPL

Arteta: Saka must protect himself but stay within rules

By Sports Desk February 24, 2023

Bukayo Saka needs to protect himself from roughhouse tactics but manager Mikel Arteta warned he must stay within the laws of the game.

Saka reacted angrily to a challenge from Philippe Coutinho during Arsenal's 4-2 win at Aston Villa last weekend, shoving the former Liverpool man before team-mates intervened.

Saka has been involved in 49 Premier League goals for Arsenal (26 goals, 23 assists), and could become the youngest player to reach 50 goal involvements in the competition since Cesc Fabregas in 2008 should he score or assist against Leicester City on Saturday.

With teams increasingly looking to use tough tackling to halt the 21-year-old's sparkling displays, Arteta feels Saka has a right to defend himself.

"The first one who has to protect Bukayo is himself," Arteta said. "There's many ways to do that on a football pitch, within the rules, and he needs to learn and improve that.

"He reacted in a way, but that line is extremely thin and that cannot take him out of his game and lose his focus.

"But he can help that, as well, to have more focus, more determination, more belief for the next action. It's something he needs to do."

Saka is set to make his 32nd Arsenal appearance of the season against Leicester on Saturday, while he also started four of England's five games at the World Cup in Qatar.

Arteta pointed to Saka's mentality as the reason for his ability to play so many matches, explaining: "I really see his determination and where he wants to get to.

"He really wants to get there and have that resilience and that capacity to consistently show a certain level. He has a great physical element to be able to play every three days. Hopefully he can continue to do that."

With his team top of the Premier League table, two points above closest challengers Manchester City with a game in hand on the reigning champions, Arteta is hoping he can repay the Arsenal board's faith in him by delivering the Gunners' first Premier League title since the 2003-04 'Invincibles' campaign.

The former Gunners midfielder has endured rough periods since taking over in 2019, and he is grateful the board have stuck with him.

Asked how significant trust was between ownership and manager, Arteta said: "It's extremely important, obviously. The people you work with need to have faith, but at the same time they have to see every day what you are doing.

"I think it's something that works very close together, and I was lucky to have the people and the ownership we have. They believed we could continue to do the work that we wanted to do and gave me time. Hopefully we can repay that faith."

Related items

  • Jordan Henderson was ‘one of our best signings’, says Saudi league vice-chairman Jordan Henderson was ‘one of our best signings’, says Saudi league vice-chairman

    Jordan Henderson’s short-lived move to Saudi Arabia benefited the country’s league “a great deal”, its vice-chairman has said.

    The 33-year-old England midfielder completed a move to Dutch side Ajax last month after leaving Al Ettifaq less than six months into a lucrative three-year contract.

    Henderson hinted at regrets over his move to the Middle East in his introductory press conference in Amsterdam.

    He had previously championed LGBTQ+ rights and was widely condemned over the move to Saudi Arabia, where same-sex relationships are criminalised.

    However, Saudi Pro League boss Saad Al Lazeez told the Financial Times Business of Football Summit on Wednesday: “Jordan Henderson, even though he left, was one of the best signings in the Saudi Pro League.

    “We signed 93 players in the summer window, and I would say 28 to 30 of them would be in anybody’s list of the top 300 players, and you don’t expect all of them to stay.

    “Sometimes things do not work out, sometimes the player does not adapt, you expect those things to happen.

    “But I still maintain Jordan Henderson was one of our best signings, we benefited a great deal from his signing, we’re learning a lot of lessons and we will continue to grow from there.

    “We have been with Jordan throughout his journey from the day we signed him in the UK. We still maintain a good relationship with him. He’s a great guy, a great person. It just did not work out. So that’s life.”

    Henderson said on January 19: “In life, if you want to call them regrets or mistakes, you can call them that.

    “But, at the same time, they’re only mistakes if you don’t learn from them.

    “Looking back, at the time, obviously it was a big decision. It was a decision I felt was right for me and my family at the time, but things happen. Things change quickly in football.

    “I had to make another decision and this (joining Ajax) is the one I felt was right decision for me.”

  • You learn to dance in the rain – Steve Evans hails hard-fought win You learn to dance in the rain – Steve Evans hails hard-fought win

    Steve Evans was pleased to see his Stevenage side ‘dance in the rain’ as Boro returned to the top six with a 1-0 win over managerless Cambridge in League One.

    Jordan Roberts turned and swivelled on the edge of the box to score and press home Stevenage’s dominance after Us keeper Jack Stevens was called into action on multiple occasions, with his side now just five points above the relegation zone.

    As for Stevenage, they leapfrogged Oxford to move back into the play-off spots and Evans hopes his side have what it takes to weather the challenges ahead in the run-in.

    He said: “When you are in the promotional season, I have been in it many times. There are loads of storms that come.

    “Storms can be opposition, they can be officials or players getting injured. Storms could be bad misses; storms can be bad mistakes at the back or a bad error.

    “But you learn to dance in the rain, and that means you learn to work hard and be disciplined and I thought my players danced in the rain tonight.”

    Stevenage were threatened by Cambridge sporadically in the second half, and the home side failed to add a nerve-settling second goal for the second game in a row after failing to put 10-man Wycombe to the sword on Saturday.

    Evans said: “I think tonight there is no reason why we don’t score more, and we had a couple of one-on-ones and we have to take them.

    “We moved it around and we had big opportunities to get the second goal and then enjoy our evening, but I think this season we have never done it the easy way compared to last year.”

    Cambridge, meanwhile, have won only once in their last six games and find themselves without a manager ahead of a crunch trip to third-place Bolton on Saturday, with Barry Corr expected to take charge in the north-west.

    The interim head coach said: “Stevenage are very direct and get numbers around the ball, and we needed to do something about that.

    “You have to combat Stevenage and they are good at what they do. They spend ages over everything and Stevenage is a difficult place to come this year and they are having a brilliant season.

    “The fixtures have been difficult in the last three games, we played three teams in the top six. I don’t want to make excuses but these games won’t define our season and playing Bolton away won’t define our season.

    “But we will go there and we will look to be as competitive as we can, and we don’t want to feel sorry for ourselves.”

  • Salford boss Karl Robinson demands winning mentality after draw with Colchester Salford boss Karl Robinson demands winning mentality after draw with Colchester

    Karl Robinson has told his Salford players to have a winning mentality if they want to remain at the club after they were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw with Colchester.

    The Ammies looked on course for a fifth victory in nine games thanks to Matt Smith’s first-half opener – his 22nd goal of the season.

    However, a battling Colchester side snatched a point thanks to young substitute Bradley Ihionven’s late strike.

    Salford, whose eight-match unbeaten start under new boss Robinson came to an end at the weekend, could not source a late winner, despite their best efforts.

    “We’re here to win and these players are paid to win,” Robinson said when asked about his side’s aim for the season.

    “They’re professional athletes and that’s my mentality. If they don’t believe in that, then they can go.

    “Tonight, it’s probably a fair result, but we were nowhere near our best. It was an under-par performance with stupid actions.

    “When you look at how fragmented we were with the amount of players we’ve had out, I can’t be too disappointed.

    “But I’m not in the industry to draw games so there’s so many elements of our game that could’ve been better.

    “The players in the dressing room are down because they know they’ve underperformed and missed another opportunity to get three points.

    “It was a real fight to put a team on that pitch; they competed, but we’ve not seen the quality or fluidity that we’ve seen from a Salford City team.”

    Meanwhile, Colchester continued their mini-revival under new boss Danny Cowley.

    The U’s, who sit five points above the Sky Bet League Two relegation zone, have now lost only one of eight games since their change in the dugout.

    “There’s no point me worrying about other teams because I can’t control their destinies, but I can only control ours,” said Cowley.

    “I’ll put all my energy and my efforts into helping the team; they needed lifting at half-time and we have to fight in those moments.

    “We didn’t deserve to go in 1-0 down, but we did, and you have to then respond. And certainly in the latter part of the game, we did that.

    “Credit to the players, but we just couldn’t win it. After two tough away games and on two difficult pitches, we take the points and move on.

    “We’re trying to win every game because that’s our mentality. We’ve now only had one loss in eight, so we are becoming a really competitive team.

    “But we’re working really hard to try and turn these draws into wins.

    “It’s just about us; we’re trying to get to 50 points as that will be enough for us to retain our status.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.