Pundit perplexed by Arteta decision that could provide Arsenal roadblock in huge game

Ciaran McCarthy
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta watches his side win at Bournemouth.

Paul Merson has revealed he is “not sure why” Mikel Arteta decided to play Bukayo Saka against Lens, as his decision “could come back to bite” Arsenal, with the star potentially injured for a huge game against Manchester City.

Saka is the Gunners’ golden boy, and has quickly become one of the most influential players in the Premier League. He was directly involved in 16 goals in his first season, which became 18 the following campaign.

Last season, the forward almost inspired his side to the Premier League title, with 14 league goals and 11 assists, and he’s followed up that top form with six goal contributions in the league this season, alongside three in two Champions League games.

While he’s clearly a major influence on his side, he’s been hampered by a few knocks this season, and fans have expected him to at least not start a couple of games already.

Despite seemingly not being at full fitness, Arteta has played Saka from the beginningf in each Premier League and Champions League game this season, including against Lens in the latter, when he was forced off after 34 minutes.

Gunners legend Merson has suggested that was a bad idea, and it could hinder the side in a huge game against Manchester City next up.

“I didn’t expect Arsenal to beat Lens this week, and I’m not sure why Arteta chose to play Bukayo Saka,” he told Sportskeeda.

“He’s got a big game coming up against Manchester City, and his decision could come back to bite them.”

Indeed, Arsenal lost against Lens 2-1, and are surely more likely to come up short against last season’s Premier League title winners without Saka than they would be with him.

Arteta has stated his star “is in contention” to play against City, but that it sounds like it’ll be a late call suggests he might still not be at full fitness.

There’s a chance he plays below his level if that is the case, and Arteta may question the decision to play Saka in the week ahead of such an important game, in which a win could put the Gunners top, if his performance is lacking.

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