Mikel Arteta has hit out to what Steven Gerrard had said after Bukayo Saka had to go off because of harsh treatment by Villa players. Arsenal won 1-0 against Aston Villa and Bukayo Saka was the one who scored the only goal of the match. Villa players were aware of the threat that Saka possess and knew that he could hurt them if he is allowed even a second on the ball.
The Aston Villa players continuously fouled Bukayo Saka to stop Arsenal play and avoid conceding a goal. This resulted in Saka asking for more protection from the referee. Saka was substituted in the 69th minute of the game and he went off with a bloodied ankle. Mikel Arteta rightly wanted to protect his player after such brutal treatment from the opponents.
This is what Steven Gerrard had to say about Saka’s reaction to the Villa players’ treatment,
“He’s a good player, an outstanding talent. I love him. But he can’t complain about that side of it, that’s football. I’m sitting here now with screws in my hips. I’ve had about 16 operations. I’m struggling to go to the gym at the moment. That’s all on the back of earning a living in English football. He’ll learn and he’ll learn quick.”
Mikel Arteta came in quick to support Saka mentioning that it is the manager’s job to protect his players. Mikel Arteta had this to say to support Saka,
“He probably gave him what he felt on the pitch. I think the refs try to do their best but we have to listen to the players. They are the reason why we’re all here.”
Why Mikel Arteta was right to oppose Gerrard about his comments on the Saka situation?
As Mikel Arteta mentioned, it is because of the players that the stadiums fill up and people get excited. Players like Saka who likes to go at defenders performing a few skills here and there get the audience at their feet. Villa’s concern is also correct from their point of view that Saka could cost them the match which he did.
However, deliberate fouls are not the answer to tackle such situations. There are times when certain fouls have to be made but they don’t have to be very robust that can injure a player. Injuries are the worst thing that can happen to an athlete and evidently no player wants that. As a result, Saka asked for more protection from the referees which Steven Gerrard was not a fan of.
Gerrard mentioned even he has had a lot of injuries and surgeries throughout his career. However, the times have changed now and that does not mean that even other players should rather get injured. If such treatment took place for a player from Aston Villa, Gerrard’s comments may have been different. He has spoken about protecting his players at Rangers from such treatments but also had to resort when facing tough opposition.
It is perfectly right when a player asks the referee to be more alert as the player knows what kind of fouls he is suffering. The referees should also pay more attention as robust tackles could potentially end a players’ career. However, players should also be responsible that they do not dive after each and every challenge as it then becomes an unfair advantage.
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