Steven Gerrard says Bukayo Saka ‘needs to toughen up’ as the Arsenal winger asked for more protection from referees after their 1-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday.
Saka scored the winner, but came under a number of crunching challenges in the game which included one from Tyrone Mings that resulted in the Villa defender picking up a yellow card.
"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 in his post-match comments to BT Sport.
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Gerrard was in bullish mood after the match, as Des Kelly found out in his post-match interview with the Villa boss.
He explained that Saka should learn to live with that kind of treatment and accept that it is part of football.
"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 quickly.”
Saka, în Aston Villa - Arsenal
Image credit: Getty Images
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That defeat for Villa means they have now lost in consecutive Premier League games following a 2-1 defeat away at West Ham on March 13.
Gerrard’s side are still sitting comfortably in ninth, but a challenge for European football looks unlikely with the Villains 12 points adrift of the Hammers in seventh place.
As for Arsenal, they remain in pole position to secure fourth and the final Champions League spot. They are three points clear of north London rivals Tottenham with a game in hand.
A return to the Champions League would mark Arsenal’s first appearance in Europe’s premier cup competition since their round of 16 elimination at the hands of Bayern Munich in the 2016/17 campaign.
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