The Aston Villa boss knows all about the demands of the Premier League from his time at Liverpool and expects a modern-day star to learn the hard way

Bukayo Saka left the field bloodied and bruised after Arsenal’s narrow win away at Aston Villa and admitted to having asked referee Andy Madley for a “bit more protection”, but Steven Gerrard has told the Gunners winger that he “can’t complain” and needs to toughen up as a Premier League star.

England international Saka netted the only goal of the game at Villa Park on Saturday, as Mikel Arteta’s side cemented a standing inside the top four, but he was also caught on the ankle by a strong challenge from Three Lions colleague Tyrone Mings that left him requiring treatment.

Saka made a point of telling the match officials that opponents are always “trying to kick” him, but Gerrard – as a long-time captain at Liverpool in his playing days – says rough treatment is part of football and the talented 20-year-old must accept that in order to thrive.

After seeing Arsenal edge the foul count against his side 14-13, the Villans boss told reporters when asked about Saka’s comments: “He said we were too rough? They didn’t commit any fouls today?

“Listen, it’s part of the game. The last time I checked, it isn’t a no-contact sport. I think tackles are allowed, physicality is allowed, aggression is allowed.

“He (Saka) is a good player, an outstanding talent. I love him. But he can’t complain about that side of it. That’s football.

“I’m sitting here now with screws in my hips. I’ve had about 16 operations. I’m struggling to go to the gym at the moment. That’s all on the back of earning a living in English football. He’ll learn and he’ll learn quick.”

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In his defence, Saka did admit that enticing tackles from defenders is “part of my game” and accepts that the odd one is going to catch him.

He told BT Sport at the end of a hard-fought victory for Arsenal in the West Midlands: “My ankle is a bit bloody, but I’ll be going again in the next game.

“It’s part of my game, so I’ll be doing it again next time.”

Saka is now heading off on international duty with England, where he will be joined in Gareth Southgate’s ranks by Villa defender Mings, and will be hoping to add to a collection of 14 caps when the Three Lions take in friendly dates with Switzerland and Ivory Coast.

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