Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has now made a ‘strange’ and ‘slightly unnecessary’ decision involving Bukayo Saka, journalist Dean Jones has told GIVEMESPORT.
The Gunners’ star boy was once again influential in his side’s 4-0 win against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium at the weekend, although he was taken off in the 76th minute with an injury issue.
Heading into the clash with the Cherries on Saturday, there were legitimate worries that the England forward could lose his record of 86 consecutive Premier League appearances.
The 22-year-old had limped off late on in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby, which led to him also missing out against Brentford in the EFL Cup.
However, despite the concerns Arsenal fans and Arteta had prior to the trip to the south coast, Saka did make the journey and was named in the starting XI against Andoni Iraola’s men. After scoring the opening goal the attacker wasn’t taken off by his manager until the scoreline was 3-0 in the 76th minute – and that was only because he suffered a knock which meant he couldn’t continue.
With games to come against Lens in the Champions League on Tuesday and Manchester City at the weekend, it was a sight no Arsenal fan wanted to see. However, Saka was pictured in training on Monday morning although it remains to be seen whether he is definitely fit enough to start against the Ligue 1 outfit given recent issues.
Bukayo Saka decision ‘strange’ and ‘unnecessary’ – Dean Jones
Speaking to GIVEMESPORT after the weekend, Jones was left confused by Arteta’s decision to keep Saka on for so long in a match which seemed to be done and dusted – especially given the worry going into the game.
Jones told GMS: “There is going to come a point soon where Arteta is going to have to manage his minutes a bit more carefully I’d imagine, because he can’t risk him getting an injury that leaves him sidelined because we don’t know how Arsenal cope for a prolonged period – or any period actually – with Saka in that team. “So it felt like a bit of a risk [keeping him on vs Bournemouth] but obviously Arteta must have had some extra knowledge that meant he felt he could still be on the pitch at 75 minutes. But it did seem a bit strange and slightly unnecessary given they were so in command of the game.”
Will Bukayo Saka start against Lens and Man City?
The fact that the Englishman has featured in 87 successive Premier League matches and was selected in the starting XI by Arteta at the weekend suggest he will be a shoo-in to start both of these matches, too.
But Jones does raise a good point – at some point with these Champions League fixtures and with Euro 2024 on the horizon too, Saka’s minutes will have to be slightly more managed to stop him from burning out.
The 22-year-old will be in team from the start against Man City if fit so perhaps the encounter with Lens is either an opportunity to use Saka from the substitutes’ bench, or take him off a little bit earlier in the game if Arsenal are in a winning position.
If the latter happens, we will see if Arteta has learnt his lesson from the weekend about trying to protect his star player.
Is Arteta overusing Saka?
It’s a legitimate argument when you consider that he is approaching 200 Arsenal appearances despite only just turning 22 years of age, but on the other hand it shows how indispensable he really is to Arteta.
As Jones says, while you can understand why Saka is in the starting XI at almost every opportunity perhaps there needs to be some more consideration to how early he is taken off in matches – Bournemouth was an ideal example where there was no need for him to stay on the pitch and save some much-needed injury.
Arteta can obviously manage the situation however he wants to and he knows more than most what his player is physically capable of, but he also needs to be aware of the welfare of his player and it might be something that becomes more of an issue to be taken care of.
The Brazilian’s return has seemingly been earmarked for Man City, which makes total sense given what a huge game it is so early in the season and one that could have a serious bearing on the Premier League title.
Throwing him straight in there would again have to be seen as a risk too though, so you have to wonder whether Martinelli could be part of the matchday squad against Lens which would allow him to get some valuable minutes in the legs before facing Pep Guardiola’s side at the Emirates on Sunday.
There was further good news on Monday when Thomas Partey was also pictured in training following a groin injury that kept him out of the fixtures against Manchester United, Everton, PSV Eindhoven, Tottenham and Bournemouth.
The Ghana international will likely need more time this week to recover but there is no doubt that Arteta would love to have him available for selection against Man City in what has to be classed as a must-not-lose clash.
While Declan Rice, Martin Odegaard and Kai Havertz have often lined up in the middle for the Gunners this term, the added defensive stability that Partey could bring in that area could be vital against Guardiola – even if it’s simply from the substitutes’ bench.