Bukayo Saka’s work load over the last 12 months has been huge
Even without Arsenal being in Europe (and getting knocked out early of the FA Cup), he has played over 4,000 minutes for club and country.
With Covid19 extending the 2019/20 season, a condensed 2020/21 season and England going all the way to the Euro’s final, it has been a non-stop 2-years for the youngster.
In the last 10 games of the season for Arsenal, he went off the boil completely. He looked exhausted and was not playing to the high standard he has set himself.
And Saka is not the only one.
England’s to limp performances in the post-season glorified friendlies are due to fatigue.
Many of those involved, like Saka, have played non-stop football over the last two years.
The Premier League is the fastest, toughest league in the world. There are no “weekends off”.
38 tough games, 2 cups, European football and international duty. No other league across Europe has this work load. So it is no surprise that Premier League – and English players in particular- are looking well off the pace.
You have to wonder why these games are being played. And why Gareth Southgate has made the decision to add to his players work load with a winter World Cup.
Surely it would have made more sense for him to give his big players the summer off. An extra 3 weeks rest.
That would be to the benefit of the national side come November when players head of to Qatar for the Sportswashing World Cup.
Instead, Southgate is flogging the same old players – from Saka to Sterling, Kane and more. What can Southgate really learn about these guys?
He will only be moaning in November when players join up with the national team and are already shattered.
And the concern with Saka is that at 20-years-old, he is being overplayed.
He played too much for Arsenal last season as Mikel Arteta lost faith in Nicolas Pepe and kept faith with his strongest XI as we chased Champions League football.
Arteta and Edu will look to rectify that this summer by buying some cover and competition for Saka, reducing his work load.
But Southgate also needs to take responsibility. There is no reason for him to be playing this summer.
We have seen with other young break through players – Michael Owen, Fernando Torres, Theo Walcott, Wayne Rooney – that over plying them at a young age ended then being on the decline in their mid-late 20s rather than at their peak.
Look at Manchester United with Marcus Rashford.
At just 24 he has already played 350 games for club and country. Is it any surprise he has completely gone off the boil? Lost his sharpness?
If the average Premier League player usually ends up with around 5-600 senior appearances by the time they retire, he is potentially 2/3’s of his way through his career at just 24. And it shows.
Saka has played 100 games for club and country over the last 2 years. That is too much for a young man whose body is still growing.
Arsenal should do more to protect him. To rest and rotate him.
But he should also be on the beach right now. Watching Love Island. Drinking a virgin daiquiri. Not plying glorified friendlies.
Over playing Saka will rob him of a full career, rob Arsenal, and rob England.