Mikel Arteta admitted that Bukayo Saka must get used to being kicked in games because of the way he attracts players.
The 22-year-old played a starring role for Arsenal in their 2-0 win over Sevilla in the Champions League on Wednesday night – a result which sees the Gunners top Group B with nine points, four ahead of PSV Eindhoven and Lens.
Leandro Trossard opened the scoring for Arsenal in the first half, turning home from close range after Saka had ghosted in behind Kike Salas, before Gabriel Martinelli’s through ball set Saka free to advance into Sevilla’s penalty area. The Ealing-born winger then jinked inside Nemanja Gudelj and he coolly slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
There was concern, however, towards the end of the game after Saka appeared to land awkwardly on his ankle – an incident that eventually led to his early withdrawal at the Emirates Stadium.
Arteta was keen to play down the severity of the knock after the game, but did say that Saka will need to continue getting used to receiving kicks at the highest level.
“It was just a kick,” he said. “I was told by the physios that he wasn’t happy to continue. He had some discomfort but, hopefully, I’m going to assume he’s going to be OK.”
“There is contact in football,” Arteta continued, with Saka on the receiving end of five fouls during his time on the pitch. “For the wingers that want to take people on especially. At the end he was uncomfortable to carry on so hopefully it’s not big but I’m really happy with his performance.”
He added on how Saka is coping with regular kicks: “He’s getting used to it! That’s not going to change with the way he attracts players.”
Saka wasn’t the only Arsenal player to provide Arteta with an injury headache – left-back for the night, Takehiro Tomiyasu, was forced off at half-time and replaced by Oleksandr Zinchenko.
On whether the Japanese international had encountered a significant issue, Arteta hinted his exit after 45 minutes was nothing more than precautionary: “He had some discomfort in the first half and we didn’t want to take any risks because he’s played a lot of minutes. Obviously with Alex on the bench ready to come in I think it was the right decision.”