Arsenal: Beware Bukayo Saka burnout

Arsenal, Bukayo Saka (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Arsenal, Bukayo Saka (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) /

Bukayo Saka has established himself as a mainstay in the Arsenal team. But should Mikel Arteta be aware of the potential burnout of the 18-year-old?

Bukayo Saka might just be the story of the season for Arsenal football club. The 18-year-old breakout star has established himself as the most promising youngster in the potential-ridden Arsenal infrastructure and one of the most exciting under-21s in Europe.

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The versatile wide man has been played in essentially every position possible on the left side under Mikel Arteta’s jurisdiction, bagging an impressive 29 appearances this season in all competitions. But while it is exciting for all parties to see such a talent impress on such a consistent basis, is it possible that Saka could be being overused at such a young age and may be nearing the dreaded ‘burnout’ stage?

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29 appearances is a tremendous number for a player who has only just reached the senior level and is still adapting to senior football. And while minutes are precious for a player as promising and impressionable as Saka, the possibility of him falling into a fatigue of sorts is a more than possible side-effect of too many minutes so suddenly.

Of course, it is worth noting that the massive amount of game-time and responsibility that has been bestowed onto that of the young Englishman is partially because of the left-back conundrum. Kieran Tierney has been sidelined for over a month, while Sead Kolasinac continues to pick up small niggles on a frequent basis. But even with these extended absences which have forced Arteta’s hand somewhat, when they are fit, would Saka actually see his game-time take a major cut? Perhaps a little, but his performances also demand future starts.

Arteta seems to have an undeniable fondness of Saka. The 18-year-old’s speed, strength and undying work ethic contribute to the Spaniard’s admiration of him. If Saka continues to perform, he will most likely maintain the current pattern of abundant opportunity.

While in some ways this is a good thing and having young players come through the academy of Saka’s ability is obviously wonderful to see, Arteta should also be conservative with the promising pupil and those that follow. Too many minutes for Saka can lead to fatigue and, more concerningly, fatigued-induced-injuries. Just ask Jack Wilshere.

The transition from youth football to professional competition at the very highest level is an arduous one, to say the least. And despite Saka’s mastering and seeming relishing of it, caution still must be taken. Options like Tierney and Kolasinac provide an opportunity for rotation. It should be taken by Arteta as a chance to provide Saka with an extended period of rest.

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Saka appears to have a higher ceiling than any youth academy product has had in a very long time. Wasting his talent would be heartbreaking, and so, Areta must get the best out of him whilst simultaneously making sure not to overwork him.