Mikel Arteta has called on Premier League referees to provide more protection for Bukayo Saka, after the forward was told to toughen up by Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard.
Gerrard made the comment after his side lost to the Gunners before the international break, listing his many injuries and the fact he has screws in his hips as proof that modern players like Saka – who was fouled three times by Villa – had 'gone soft'.
However, Arteta has leapt to the defence of his starlet, claiming that modern forwards require greater protection from physical challenges.
“I think Bukayo said he was not going to complain, but he wanted some consistency in the refereeing,” he said.
“The only person who can protect the players is the referee because he guides the level of the game and the level of the contact and physicality that is allowed. We have to protect our best players and that’s in the hands of the referee.”
Saka missed out on England's friendly victories over Switzerland and Ivory Coast with Covid-19 but Arteta confirmed he will be in contention to face Crystal Palace on Monday night. The game is an important one for the Gunners as they attempt to solidify their place in the top four.
Arteta's side are currently fourth, three points ahead of Tottenham and four points better off than Manchester United in fifth and sixth respectively. Arsenal also have a game in hand over the pair.
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