Mikel Arteta has admitted that he’s going to have no choice but to rest in-form Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka soon.
Saka re-established his status as the Gunners’ most important player on Thursday night.
Yes, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the late winner to help Arsenal beat Benfica 3-2 and move into the last 16 of the Europa League, but it was another man-of-the-match display from the 19-year-old attacker, who set up both of the Gabon striker’s goals on the night.
He has started 21 of the North London club’s 25 Premier League games this season and overall has clocked a total of 2,498 minutes across all competitions – the equivalent of nearly 28 full matches.
And Arteta has admitted that he’s going to need to give Saka a break soon, claiming that he saw signs of tiredness in his performance in Athens this week.
He told The Standard when asked if he could bench Saka in fear of burnout: “At some point, ideally, yes. On Thursday night at some stages in the game we were thinking about that, because you can see it.”
It’s probably indicative of Arsenal’s wider problems that their most trusted and reliable player this season is still effectively a kid in football terms.
At 19, Saka, who earns £30,000 per week, probably shouldn’t be Arteta’s most important player, but that’s the situation and the Spanish coach certainly needs to protect him at all costs – and if that means resting him for a game or two, so be it.