Arsenal beat Aston Villa 1-0 on Saturday, with Bukayo Saka’s strike the difference between the two sides at Villa Park, but the Gunners ace did take exception to some of the treatment he received.
Following Arsenal’s triumph against Aston Villa, Bukayo Saka appealed the officials to provide him greater protection. Steven Gerrard has answered brutally.
Saka’s first-half goal, his 10th of the Premier League season, was enough to give the Gunners their fifth consecutive away win, boosting their Champions League prospects even further. The trip to Villa Park was Mikel Arteta’s men’s third game in six days, but the victory ensured they moved four points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United having played a game fewer.
Arsenal were made to graft for their victory in the Midlands however, with Gerrard’s side putting in a physical display which saw them compete right until the final whistle. Saka in particular was on the end of some meaty Villa challenges and was public enemy number one for supporters, after appearing to protest with referee Andrew Madley.
But the 20-year-old admitted afterwards that his chat with officials was to ask for a little more protection from opposition players. “I wasn’t complaining to the ref, but I just wanted to let him know that that’s my game, running at players with pace and sometimes I need a bit more protection when players are purposefully trying to kick me,” he told BT Sport.
Villa boss Gerrard, who cut a frustrated figure throughout his post-match media commitments refuted Saka’s claims and insisted it should be a learning moment for the England international. “He’s a good player, an outstanding talent. I love him. But he can’t complain about that side of it, that’s football,” Gerrard said.
“I’m sitting here now with screws in my hips. I’ve had about 16 operations. I’m struggling to go to the gym at the moment.
“That’s all on the back of earning a living in English football. He’ll learn and he’ll learn quick.”
The Liverpool legend added: “He said we were too rough? They didn’t commit any fouls today? Listen, it’s part of the game. The last time I checked, it wasn’t a no-contact sport. I think tackles are allowed, physicality is allowed, aggression is allowed as long as it’s fair.”
Despite not agreeing with Saka’s assessment of the game, Gerrard was honest about his own side’s lack of performance and claimed the visitors deserved the victory. “It was a tough first half because we allowed it to be tough.
“I think we were indecisive in the things we tried to do. I think our performance lacked belief. It wasn’t until after half-time that we showed we can be better.
“We deserved to be behind in the first half. We were second best. We set up to be aggressive but lacked belief in what we were doing.
“I thought certain individuals lacked belief. It’s hard to execute a game plan if not everyone believes in what you are doing. We were less indecisive in the second half and off the back of that created four interesting moments. The performance was a lot more positive.”