Despite appearing to have picked up a knock, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta defended his decision not to rest winger Bukayo Saka in the Gunners’ Europa League win over PSV Eindhoven on Thursday.
Since Saka has started every Premier League game for his team this season, many expected Arteta to rest the 21-year-old this time around, with Europa League advancement all but guaranteed.
However, Saka did not only start the game but also continued to play for 85 minutes after it appeared that he was having trouble in the latter stages.
After the hosts took the lead, there was a scare when Saka was injured after being tackled from behind. With the World Cup only a month away, many were upset that he was even participating.
However, Arteta has defended his choice, stating that elite players must be able to play every match and should desire to do so as well.
“Look at the top players in the world, they play 70 matches, every three days and make the difference and win the game,” he said.
“If you want to be at the top, you have to be able to do that. And if we start to put something different in the mind of a young player, I think we are making a huge mistake because then [he would] be like ‘no, I don’t play now, on astroturf I don’t play.’
“I don’t want that. I want them to be ruthless every three days. I want them knocking on my door [saying] ‘I want to play, I want to win the game.’
“There is no fitness coach in the world that is going to tell me that they cannot do it because I’ve seen it. 72 games and scored 50 goals. The players that score 50 goals do not play 38 games in the season, it’s just impossible.”