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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Bukayo Saka needs a rest, says Mikel Arteta as Arsenal boss plans Gareth Southgate talks

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Saka has been the Gunners’ star performer this term, earning a nomination for the Premier League’s player of the season award, and is their top scorer with 12 goals in all competitions, but has looked visibly tired in recent weeks.

The 20-year-old has made 102 appearances for club and country since the start of last season and has hardly had a break during that period, having played a larger than expected role in England’s run to the final of Euro 2020 last summer, ultimately culminating in his crucial penalty miss in the shootout defeat to Italy at Wembley.

The Gunners finish their campaign at home to Everton on Sunday, but Saka’s season will not end there, with England scheduled to play four Uefa Nations League matches in the space of 11 days at the start of June.

“He needs a break, that is for sure,” Arteta said. “He has played a lot of minutes this season and he played a lot of minutes last season.

“You expect your important players to do so, to have that ability and show the quality that Bukayo has shown consistently throughout the season. But obviously you have to bear in mind that at some stage he needs to rest. That is something we really need to think about, the plans for him in the summer.”

Southgate will name his squad for the matches against Germany, Italy and two against Hungary next week, following the conclusion of the Premier League season.

The games will form a crucial part of England’s preparations for the World Cup in Qatar, which is now less than six months away, so Southgate will be desperate to have as many of his key men available as possible, despite inevitable reservations from some club managers.

Saka is expected to be included but Arteta says he will discuss managing the forward’s minutes with the Three Lions boss before he joins up.

“Yes, we are going to do that,” the Spaniard said. “We are going to talk to every manager that is responsible for our players – how they are thinking, show them what they have done, how we have done it and what we expect them to do in the future as well.

“Everything has to be connected and related to the aim of protecting the player and getting the best out of the player.”

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