Mikel Arteta admits it’s a difficult balance to manage Bukayo Saka’s minutes at the moment, because of his consistent performances.
Arsenal 19-year-old Bukayo Saka made his 29th appearance of the season against Benfica in the Europa League Round-of-32 first leg. 25 of those appearances have been starts.
No outfield player has appeared more for the Gunners this campaign, nor have any of them played more minutes than Saka. Only Bernd Leno gets more time on the pitch under Mikel Arteta, for obvious reasons.
Yet it’s getting very difficult to rest the youngster, even for a game or two. Since Christmas, he’s on a run of four goals and two assists in nine games in the Premier League, and that’s not including the penalty he won against Leeds United.
In the Europa League, he scored Arsenal’s only goal in Rome. Mikel Arteta says it’s not easy to leave the winger out.
“It is (difficult) at the moment because he’s been a real threat,” Arteta said. “He’s involved in a lot of goals all the time and his consistent performances make him a starter obviously.
“I’m not going to put a brake on his development or how much he can do week in, week out. We have to support him and give him the best possible advice all the time, and then manage his minutes so he can maintain this level.
“It’s a fine balance, but at the same time he’s 19 years old and we have to protect him.”
Arsenal face Manchester City, Benfica and Leicester City in the next week. Which of those three games do you choose to leave out your best-performing player? Do you risk him in all three and potentially lose him to injury? Arteta certainly has some decisions ahead of him.