Emmanuel Petit feels Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is repeating past mistakes by overplaying star attacker Bukayo Saka.
During Arsenal’s Champions League defeat at Lens, Saka limped off with a suspected hamstring tweak.
The forward, who was already carrying a knock, is now a doubt for Sunday’s huge Premier League showdown with champions Manchester City at Emirates Stadium.
Arteta said he had no regrets over selecting the England international in midweek, but former Arsenal midfielder Petit thinks his lack of rotation proved costly in the final stretch of last season.
“Arteta is definitely overplaying Saka,” Petit told Compare.bet.
“This is exactly what happened last year where the players were playing too much and they looked tired by the end of the season. They have such a good squad and quality players on the bench but Arteta doesn’t make substitutions often enough or early enough.
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“This is the difference between Arsenal and City where Pep Guardiola can make lots of changes and the quality is still there and this is why there is still a big gap between the two teams. I’m still wondering if some players in the dressing room are not of the level to play consistently for Arsenal because Arteta keeps relying on Saka and now he has got injured.”
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Last week, Saka missed training after picking up a knock in the North London Derby draw but started against Bournemouth the following weekend regardless. He would ultimately come off with 14 minutes left to play before lasting just 34 minutes against Lens.
Petit added: “[Saka’s] been clearly dealing with some knocks and needed to be rested but he’s kept on playing. But the issue is who could replace him? Trossard on the right-hand side maybe? Because in the Lens game Arteta played with a right-hand side of Tomiyasu and Vieira for most of the game and although I am a huge fan of Arteta, he got this wrong. It is really not good news for Arsenal to lose Saka.”
How important is Saka to Arsenal?
In the Premier League, Arteta has subbed off Saka nine times in 2023, an above average rate for players who start regularly and the fifth-most of anyone in Arsenal’s squad. However, overall Saka has played 2,449 minutes, the second-most of any Arsenal player behind Martin Odegaard.
Saka has four goals and two assists in the league this season, leading Arsenal in both metrics.
He also has the Premier League’s third-highest xG so far and the fourth-highest xA. By setting up Gabriel Jesus against Lens, Saka became the first player in Europe’s big five leagues to score 5+ goals and register 5+ assists across all competitions.