'I'm here with screws in my hips... He'll learn' - Gerrard tells Arsenal's Saka to toughen up

The Arsenal winger asked for more protection during the Gunners’ victory over Aston Villa at the weekend.

Steven Gerrard [file photo].
Steven Gerrard [file photo].
Image: PA

STEVEN GERRARD HAS warned Bukayo Saka he needs to toughen up after the Arsenal winger asked for more protection during the Gunners’ victory over Aston Villa.

Saka told BT Sport after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory at Villa Park that he had talked to referee Andrew Madley about the treatment he was getting from the Villa 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,” Saka said.

Tyrone Mings was booked for catching Saka late with his studs, while the England man also earned numerous free-kicks before being substituted with 20 minutes to go.

Villa boss Gerrard had little sympathy, though, saying: “It’s part of the game. The last time I checked it’s not a no-contact sport. I think tackles are allowed, physicality’s allowed.

“He’s a good player, he’s an outstanding talent and I love him. But he can’t complain about that side. That’s football.

“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.”

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta had a different reaction to the same question, saying: “We have to listen to the players. They are the reason why we are all here.”

The victory was Arsenal’s sixth from seven games and moved them four points clear of Manchester United with a game in hand in the race to qualify for the Champions League.

“We have 10 games to go and what we did yesterday or today, it’s not relevant, it’s what we’re going to do tomorrow, how we’re going to prepare and how we’re going to improve the team and play better to win more games,” said Arteta.

“When we’re so dominant like we were, we have to score the second and the third one.”

Villa did not manage a shot until the hour mark and did not test Bernd Leno until injury time at the end of the game.

Gerrard wants to see his players being bolder against the top teams, saying: “We need to see more collectively, we need to do more, we need to put in 90-minute performances as a start.

“Because you can’t wait to go behind against these teams. There’s been too many occasions now. It’s almost like they’re waiting for something to happen in a game or for me to get into them for that reaction to come.

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“We need to be more positive and have more belief from the first whistle. That will give us a better chance of taking points from the teams that are above us.

“But we have to respect the fact that there’s a gap at the moment and we need time and it’s a process before we can really take the fight and the challenge to them. But you’ve got to want to grab it.”

A new episode of The Front Row, in partnership with Guinness, is out now. After Ireland’s Triple Crown win, Murray Kinsella gives us the rundown on his team of the tournament. Ireland international Sene Naoupu also joins the panel to chat about her career and look ahead to the start of the Women’s Six Nations. Click here to subscribe or listen below:

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