Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has been slammed by Gabriel Agbonlahor over complaints that winger Bukayo Saka is treated rougher than other players. The Gunners have asked the PGMOL for more protection for the young star, who was fouled 87 times in 2023 – the third-most in the Premier League. Only Newcastle United’s Bruno Guimaraes (92) and Crystal Palace’s Jordan Ayew (117) were fouled more times than Saka.
Neither Newcastle nor Crystal Palace have made similar complaints to the PGMOL, with Arsenal claiming that referees are too often waiting for a second strong challenge on the winger before issuing a yellow card.
As they see it, lax refereeing of fouls on Saka has seen opposing players more willing to smash into him.
Speaking on talkSPORT, pundit and ex-Aston Villa forward Agbonlahor was appalled by the Gunners’ demands for special treatment. He said: “Shut up, it’s all you hear from Arteta, Arsenal. Look at the clips of Maradona, he used to get two-footed in the chest. No yellow card. Messi, kicked, he just gets up, quick free kick. Messi gets on with it.
“Honestly just stop moaning. Get on with your game. Yes, Saka might get fouled a lot, that shows because you are a top player and people have got to stop you. You get on with it.
“If you weren’t a good player you wouldn’t be getting fouled so much and sometimes managers will say take it in turns to get a yellow card and stop the top, top players. So Arteta, Arsenal, whoever is moaning get on with it.”
With Arsenal in the thick of a Premier League title race, Agbonlahor’s suggestion to focus on their games could be pertinent.
Manager Arteta voiced concerns in February last year that Saka could not rely on referees to keep him safe. He said: “He needs to learn when to take certain balls, what to do with the ball, how to use his body, when to jump.
“There are a lot of things we can train but obviously it is very difficult to understand what the opponent is going to do.
“Wingers and talented players get kicked and fouled and get the demand to win games and that is the chance he has, that is his role in the team.”
Arsenal play Liverpool in the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday, with live coverage of the 4.30pm kick-off on BBC One.