SOUVENIR PROGRAMME

Mikel Arteta attempts to clear up Bukayo Saka treatment complaints

Mikel Arteta has said Arsenal did not specifically complain to the PGMOL over the rough treatment on Bukayo Saka, insisting referees are already aware of opposition tactics.

Earlier in the week, there was a lot of reaction to reports that the Gunners had protested the treatment of their winger, with persistent challenges and the lack of protection noted.

That Saka is the third most-fouled player in the Premier League shows he is, in fact, more protected than the all but two players in the division – sadly, Mo Salah cannot say the same.

Speaking to the press on Friday, Arteta was asked about the rumours of discussions with the PGMOL about Saka, but he simply said there is regular “communication” and nothing “specific” about the winger.

“It is part of the daily, weekly communication (with PGMOL),” the Arsenal boss said. “We have our sets of topics but nothing specific about that one (Saka).

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 23, 2023: Arsenal's Bukayo Saka, already on a yellow card, takes out Liverpool's Ryan Gravenberch with a reckless challenge but no second yellow is shown, during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Arsenal FC at Anfield. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“I think the referees know the tactics of the opponent and they know that some players are more targeted because of the way they play.

“Obviously they buy more tackles, but I think they are aware of that.”

We think Arsenal did pretty well themselves about buying tackles at Anfield just a couple of weeks ago – and Saka was no saint either, with his challenge leading to Kostas Tsimikas‘ broken collarbone.

Nevertheless, Arteta was not overly surprised by the reaction to the report, saying: “I think that’s been going on for two years now.

“We have wingers that provoke a lot of fouls and a lot of attention and that’s something normal.”

To put Saka’s fouls awarded into context, he has been fouled 43 times in the Premier League so far – an average of 2.2 per game. Salah, on the other hand, has been fouled just 18 times for an average of 0.9 per game.

Only one will feature in the FA Cup clash on Sunday, let’s see if the referee is at all whistle happy.