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  • by Yann Tear at Emirates Stadium

Saka won't need taking out of the firing line, says Arteta about the Gunners star

Mikel Arteta believes Bukayo Saka has it in him to last the pace of a demanding season without having periods of rest.

The Arsenal boss started the England winger in Thursday night’s Europa League win over PSV Eindhoven, resisting the temptation to rest one of his star players ahead of the weekend visit to Southampton.

Arsene Wenger used to talk openly about keeping players back when he feared they were entering the ‘red zone’ as he called it and the tank was starting to run empty.

But the current boss has a different view, believing that consistency is all important and that young players like Sako, especially, can handle the demands of ‘non-stop football.’

"Top players in the world, they play 70 matches - every three days - and make the difference and win the game,” Arteta said. “If you want to be at the top, you have to be able to do that.

“If you start to put something different in the minds of the young players, I think we are making a huge mistake because then it's one game yes, one no and now I don't play. I don't want that. I want them to be ruthless every three days, even knocking on my door to say 'I want to play.’

“There is not a famous club in the world where they can say they cannot do it, because I've seen it - 72 games to score 50 goals. The same player playing 38 games doesn't score 50 goals, that's impossible.”

The 1-0 win over the Dutch came courtesy of a strike from skipper Granit Xhaka and it was another moment to marvel at his turn around in status, just a few years on from walking off to resounding boos, looking like he would never play for the club again.

“He deserved that,” Arteta said of the winning goal. “He has faced adversity in difficult moments. His work ethic and love for this football club is unquestionable and I'm really happy to see him enjoying his career.

“We always believed that he had the qualities to do that and sometimes it's looking for something in the player's mind and to be open and receptive to other things. He's been extremely open and his workrate to learn is fantastic and now I think it's paying off.”

Arsenal are through to the knock-outs after the win but need a draw in Holland next week to avoid an extra round.

The Gunners’ boss said: “We have qualified so that's the first step. Really pleased. Now we want to achieve the second thing which is to finish first in the group because of the difference it makes in terms of the number of games you have to play.

“It's great to have clean sheets. Today I think we should have scored many more goals. - the same as in the first half against Leeds - but I'm really pleased with the performance.”


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