Mikel Arteta claims Bukayo Saka ‘needs protecting’ ahead of Man City clash

Mikel Arteta has admitted that Arsenal  ‘have to protect’ Bukayo Saka, with the 19-year-old becoming an increasingly important member of his squad.

Saka scored the Gunners’ only goal in the 1-1 draw with Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 clash.

The academy graduate stepped up with his side 1-0 down after they had missed a host of chances at the Stadio Olimpico.

That’s Saka sixth goal of the season and his tenth since the start of last season, making him the only Premier League teenagers to hit double figures for both goals and assists.

After breaking into the Gunners first-team last season, the England international is now a regular under Arteta – almost eclipsing his minutes played with months of the season remaining.

And the Arsenal boss has claimed he needs to balance his playing time to continue his development, without risking him burning out down to too much football.

“I think we have to protect him and keep expectations where they should be,” he said after the draw with Benfica. “But I'm not gonna put a break in his development or what he can do week in week out.

“I think we have to support him, give him the best possible advice all the time and then manage his minutes so he can maintain this level.

“It is at the moment because he’s been a real threat, he’s involved in a lot of goals all the time and the consistency of the performances makes him a starter obviously.

“It’s a fine balance, but at the same time when he is 19-years-old we have to protect him.”

Despite Arteta’s comments, Saka is likely to start against runaway Premier League leaders Man City on Sunday and he believes that he is improving with every game.

"I feel like I'm improving every game, trying to progress, listen to the coach because he gives a lot of good advice,” Saka told BT Sport.

"The experienced players around me are helping me a lot so I'm grateful to have a good team and family around me."

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