Arsenal’s standout player Bukayo Saka’s treatment has drawn criticism from Gabby Agbonlahor.
The 22-year-old had a fantastic start to the season, carrying on with his strong play from the previous campaign, which saw him finish with 25 goal contributions as Arsenal challenged for the title. Saka’s form has declined, meanwhile, after a demanding December schedule.
Arsenal is beginning to suffer as a result of the England international, who is currently the third-most fouled player in the league. Halfway through the Premier League season, Saka has just six goals and the same amount of assists, showing signs of poor form.
Saka’s offensive output—six goals and six assists in 19 league games—makes the opposition frequently double up on him, which increases the likelihood that he will be fouled. But former Aston Villa striker Agbonlahor has voiced his opinion over Saka’s persistent fouling and offered suggestions for Arsenal’s response.
“Go on with it, it’s football. It’s all you hear off Arteta and Arsenal,” Agbonlahor remarked to Alan Brazil on talkSPORT. “Every time you got the ball in the past, you would get fouled. Take a look at the footage of Maradona; he used to get chest-punched by two feet! Play on, two-footed in the chest, no yellow card.
“Messi was kicked repeatedly, but he just got up, took a short free kick, and carried on. Proceed with your endeavor.
“Yes, Saka may foul a lot, but that’s the nature of a great player; opponents must stop you.”
Saka’s treatment has prompted comparisons to former season Wilfried Zaha and Jack Grealish. Although Saka’s performances have started to suffer, manager Mikel Arteta acknowledged in a statement from last year that Saka needed to learn how to handle specific kinds of difficulties. Agbonlahor, meanwhile, said the forward should consider it as a compliment and compared it to his own playing days.
“I was kicked, but I just moved on,” he remarked. “You wouldn’t be fouled as frequently if you weren’t a good player. To stop that player, managers will instruct you to obtain a yellow card one at a time. They certainly do that with the very best players. Arsenal, now go on and do it. Stop wailing, Arteta and anybody else is complaining.