Arsenal ace Oleksandr Zinchenko compares Saka to Messi and Ronaldo

Aston Villa V Arsenal in pictures

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Oleksandr Zinchenko believes that his Arsenal team-mate, Bukayo Saka, deserves the same protection from referees as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. The England international was given a tough time against Aston Villa on Saturday but still scored in a white-knuckle win to send the Gunners top of the Premier League. 

Saka was forced into a physical battle, as he has been on plenty of prior occasions this campaign, this time against Villa’s Alex Moreno. The 21-year-old was brought to ground on several occasions but referee Simon Hooper was fairly lenient in his approach to the game. 

Villa only received two yellow cards, while Saka himself was booked for showing frustration and slamming the ball on the turf. As one of the league’s in-form stars and trickiest customers, Zinchenko feels as though referees should take greater care to look out for a targeted player like Saka. 

“Bukayo is an unbelievable player, all the full backs from the other teams know he’s so dangerous, so they try to provoke him, tackle him and the referees should know this,” explained the Ukrainian.

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“We can speak about Messi, Cristiano, Neymar and players like this. The referees need to protect this kind of player. Apart from Bukayo, we have other front players who are so dangerous and the referees need to be careful, they need to look after them of course.”

Saka continues to go from strength to strength, kicking on from his superb World Cup with England to remain on top form with the Gunners. He is now indispensable to Mikel Arteta, having notched 17 goal contributions in 23 league games this term. 

Zinchenko has also made a strong impression since signing from Manchester City in the summer, and he scored his first English top-flight goal in 92 appearances by finding the net with a deflected strike past Emi Martinez at Villa Park. 

Despite the landmark, which levelled the game at 2-2, the 26-year-old’s warrior mentality came to the fore as he immediately grabbed the ball and ran back to the centre circle for kick-off. Arsenal went on to win the game 4-2 thanks to a pair of dramatic stoppage-time goals, with Zinchenko subsequently apologising for his first-half display. 

“To be honest, the performance in the first half wasn’t good enough,” he said. “I wasn’t happy at all but in the second half I’m happy to help my team with the goal, but my priority was always three points. The quality is there but we can’t stop, there are a lot of things to improve but if we work hard to improve ourselves then we are on the right track.”

Having temporarily fallen behind City in second following a defeat at home to Pep Guardiola’s side in midweek, Arsenal are back on top after the Sky Blues dropped points away at Nottingham Forest in a surprise 1-1 draw on Saturday. 

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