Mikel Arteta warns referees Arsenal star Bukayo Saka has ‘target on his back’


    Mikel Arteta is concerned that opposition teams are singling out Bukayo Saka for rough treatment (Picture: Getty)
    Mikel Arteta is concerned that opposition teams are singling out Bukayo Saka for rough treatment (Picture: Getty)

    Mikel Arteta has urged Premier League referees to offer Bukayo Saka more protection amid concerns the Arsenal winger has a growing ‘traget on his back’.

    The England international limped out of the recent win over Nottingham Forest following a challenge from Renan Lodi and has been marked out for special treatment by opposition full-backs regularly this season.

    Back in March, meanwhile, then Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard, urged Saka to stop moaning after he complained he was on the receiving end of several over the top tackles.

    ‘The referees have the duties to deal with that,’ he said. ‘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.”

    Arteta did admit his team need to be ‘more intelligent’ in finding ways to place Saka in situations that pose less physical risk.

    ‘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,’ he said.

    Bukayo Saka has been in sensational form for Arsenal this season
    Bukayo Saka has been in sensational form for Arsenal this season (Picture: Getty)

    ‘Sometimes [we can improve] the type of ball we give him and when we give him certain balls.’

    Arsenal, meanwhile, will head into the winter break for the World Cup top of the Premier League should they win at Wolves this evening.

    ‘It’s special,’ said Arteta of Wolves’ situation with the struggling Midlands club playing their final game for the arrival of Julen Lopetegui as their new manager.

    ‘Obviously, they are in a moment as well with very special circumstances. I think Steve has done a really good job looking at the games they have played.

    ‘We were watching the midweek game they played and the game before that they lost not really meriting to lose the game. We know, Saturday night at the stadium will be busy and it will be a tough game.

    On Lopetegui’s imminent arrival, Arteta added: ‘He’s a great coach, his career talks for itself, what he did at Sevilla, what he did in Portugal, what he did for the national team.

    ‘He’s a really good coach, [he’s from] not far from where I live, so I know him really, really well and hopefully after tomorrow he can have a very successful period here.’

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