LONDON, England — They came, they saw, and they kicked him but still, Bukayo Saka saved the day.
Sevilla identified the England international as Arsenal’s main threat on Wednesday and gave him only one way to stop him — fouling him five times in the opening 35 minutes — yet Saka finished the evening with a goal and an assist in a 2-0 win at the Emirates.
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The treatment of referees in north London has become a hot topic in recent days after Arsenal expressed their anger at the Premier League’s handling of the game through both Mikel Arteta and an official club statement, but Saka proved here that the strongest reaction can be given on the pitch.
“There’s contact in football and obviously for wingers who want to take people to it it’s going to happen,” said Arteta. “At the end, he didn’t feel comfortable to continue, hopefully, it’s not too much but I’m really pleased with his performance.
“I think he’s got used to it! I don’t think that’s going to change, especially with the way he plays and the way he attracts players so he’ll get used to it.”
He is no stranger to rough accommodation from opponents. It’s to Saka’s credit that he rarely reacts, but Jorginho had to calm his team-mate down here as Nemanja Gudelj and Keike Salas took turns to cut him down.
Some players would have retreated in such a situation but Saka took it upon himself to drive Arsenal forward from the moment he broke into the first team and so it proved again, slotting home a cross for Leandro Trossard to square Jorginho’s superb through-ball. 29 minutes.
Saka’s intuitive understanding of those around him only multiplies the threat his personal genius poses. All five of Trossard’s goals this season have assisted Arsenal’s number one goal. 7.
Sevilla were largely beaten in their own half, failing to register a shot of any description until the seventh minute of added time but their race was long overdue, Saka adding Arsenal’s second on 64 minutes in an assurance that it would be easy to take. for granted
Saka collected the ball from Gabriel Martinelli and turned Adria Pedrosa to slot into the box before finishing low past goalkeeper Marko Dimitrovic.
Martinelli also deserves special mention, terrorizing Juanlu on the reverse with a combination of pace, trickery and high-press that makes him such a danger — how Arteta must constantly rue his inability to field his first-choice front three of Saka, Martinelli, and Gabriel Jesus. Also missing the last due to a hamstring problem.
“You look at Gabi Jesus, I think he’s only played one Premier League match for us. He’s played three matches for us in the Champions League and scored four goals,” Arteta said. It is, but having Leo here is very reliable and gives you something different from Eddie [Nketiah] And him. He’s delighted to have and I’m really happy with them.”
Injuries are not far from Arteta’s mind these days — Takehiro Tomiyasu went off at half-time feeling “uncomfortable” — and Saka sparked fears of a new problem as he limped off with five minutes remaining, seemingly indicating a back problem in his left leg. Probably his ankle after landing awkwardly while jumping for a header.
He will be assessed in the coming days but will be encouraged by the pitch he left unassisted, as he walked around the Arsenal half before going straight down to attack before sitting on the substitutes’ bench. The tunnel.
“It was a kick and the physios told me on the radio that he was not happy to continue,” Arteta said. “So he’s going to be a bit uncomfortable but hopefully I’m assuming he’s fine.” England boss Gareth Southgate, in attendance at the Emirates, will be waiting for updates with equal impatience.
Defeat at Lens on matchday two threatened to make Arsenal’s Group B UEFA Champions League campaign more complicated than it looked on paper but after showing an impressive amount of control in a dominant display, they now know a draw against Lens will be enough to get them out next time around. Qualify with a game to spare, allowing attention to shift to the title race.
A night off wouldn’t go amiss for Saka on six match days.