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Mikel Arteta hopes to allow Bukayo Saka the chance to rest

The 19-year-old has played but all one minute of Arsenal's six February fixtures.

Mikel Arteta admits it would be ideal to be able to rest Bukayo Saka in the coming weeks but warned his players not to complain about fatigue.

Alongside captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, England international Saka has been Arsenal’s talisman in recent weeks.

The 19-year-old has played but all one minute of Arsenal’s six February fixtures and has hit five goals since Boxing Day.

Arsenal v Leeds United – Premier League – The Emirates Stadium
Bukayo Saka has scored five times since Boxing Day (Adam Davy/PA)

Saka laid on both of Aubameyang’s goals as the Gunners beat Benfica 3-2 on Thursday night to set up a Europa League round of 16 clash with Olympiacos.

Arteta has been asked several times about Saka’s contribution of late but has now conceded he may have to hand the academy graduate a breather.

“At some point, ideally, yes,” he replied when asked if it was inevitable that Saka will have to be given a rest.

“On Thursday night at some stages in the game we were thinking about that because you can see it.

“It is not only him, there are a lot of players who have played so many minutes, you could see the Benfica players and you could sense the fatigue and the changes they had to do straight away.

Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta wants to keep his squad fresh (John Walton/PA)

“But obviously when things go well the energy that creates sometimes overcomes fatigue and I prefer not to talk too much about fatigue.”

It remains to be seen if Saka’s break will come when Arsenal travel to face high-flying Leicester on Sunday – with the visitors looking to improve on their lowly 11th place.

Arteta has called on his squad to give the team everything they can until they are “absolutely done”, insisting fatigue cannot be used as an excuse.

“If we have to rest players we have to rest them because we have to keep them fit as much as possible,” he added.

“But as well you have to develop that mental toughness that you need when you are in competitions you want to win.

“That is why if you say ‘I’m fatigued, I cannot do it’ – no, of course you can do it.

“There are things and professions that are much harder than ours where people keep on going and going – when someone is running a marathon and chasing somebody.

“There are so many good examples we can use so fatigue is a lot of times mental, because if things go well and you score a goal, I’m sure you will still have the energy to sprint and celebrate that goal.

“But when you have to track someone back you say you’re tired? I don’t really agree with that, if you are on that pitch – until you are absolutely done – you have to give your best.”

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