Steven Gerrard warns Bukayo Saka he must toughen up after call for more referee protection

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Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard has warned Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka that he must learn to accept the physicality dished out to him in the Premier League.

Saka netted the only goal of the game in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Villa, after which he admitted that he spoke to the referee about a lack of protection from some tough challenges from the Villa defenders.

He told BT Sport: “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.”

Those comments were later put to Gerrard, and it’s safe to say that the Villa manager wasn’t impressed with what he heard.

“He said that we were too rough? And they didn’t commit no fouls today?” Gerrard questioned.

“It’s part of the game. The last time I checked it is not a no-contact sport. Tackles are allowed, physicality is allowed, aggression is allowed. He’s a good player, he’s an outstanding talent, I love him, but he can’t complain about that. 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.”

On the other hand, Gunners boss Mikel Arteta insisted that Saka’s concerns should be taken seriously.

“He probably has said what he felt on the pitch and I think the referees are there and they try to do their best and we have to listen to the players,” Arteta said. “They are the reason why we are all here.”

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