Mikel Arteta has called on officials to be more wary of the harsh treatment Bukayo Saka is receiving from opposition players ahead of the FIFA World Cup.
It was recently feared that Saka could be set to miss the tournament entirely when he hobbled off 20 minutes in Arsenal’s thumping win over Nottingham Forest a few short weeks ago. The forward was aggressively brought down by Renan Lodi, and was subbed off with an apparent ankle injury.
Thankfully that injury did not prove to be a serious one, but ahead of Arsenal’s final Premier League game before the tournament in Qatar, Arteta has stated that referees need to be more aware of these types of challenges going in on the young star:
“The referees have the duties to deal with that. The better the players become, the bigger target they become, because people try to find ways to stop him. That is why football has very clear rules, what you can do and what you cannot do, and that is the referee’s job.
“It becomes about the timing, the decision making, the space you have generated before that action, and the understanding and knowledge of what is going to happen before it happens. Sometimes [we can improve] the type of ball we give him and when we give him certain balls.”
Saka is widely expected to play a key role at the World Cup, primarily in attack and potentially also as a wing-back when needed.