Bukayo Saka believes he needs more protection when players are deliberately trying to kick him off the pitch, as against Aston Villa on Saturday.
Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka scored the winning goal against Aston Villa on Saturday, but he ended up having to come off early following some rough treatment from the opposition.
Most notably, Tyrone Mings caught Saka badly on the ankle after leaping into a challenge, but he was far from the only one.
After the game, Saka was asked in his TV interview with BT Sport about what he’d said to the referee as they both left the pitch.
“I wasn’t obviously complaining,” Saka said. “But I just wanted to let him (the referee) know that that’s my game.
“I’m going to run at players and sometimes I need a bit more protection when players are purposefully trying to kick me. So that’s what I was letting them know.”
It’s certainly up to the referees to help Saka out in these kinds of situations.
If the ref lets Saka’s opponents get away with bad fouls repeatedly, they have little reason not to make them. If they can get an unfair tactical advantage by kicking one of Arsenal’s best players, why wouldn’t they do so?
It’s the referee’s job to make sure the players follow the rules, by enforcing them properly. Punish bad fouls with immediate yellow cards, rather than giving players warnings and allowing them to switch to the next player in the foul rotation.
The better Saka gets, the more teams are going to get physical with him to try and squeeze him out of the game.
We’ve seen this all before with the many young Arsenal prospects who end up suffering serious injuries when one idiot at a club like Stoke or Birmingham City takes it too far. That shouldn’t be an inevitable outcome.