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21st Mar 2022

Steven Gerrard hits back at Bukayo Saka after Aston Villa complaints

Simon Lloyd

Arsenal took a huge step towards a Champions League return.

Ashley Young has claimed Arsenal’s players celebrated as if they had won the league following their victory against Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon. While Villa manager Steven Gerrard told Bukayo Saka to accept that physicality is a part of English football.

After losing at home to Liverpool in midweek, Arsenal took a significant step towards a Champions League return at Villa Park, where Saka scored the only goal of the game.

The England international’s strike capped a dominant first half from Mikel Arteta’s side, but an improved showing from Villa after the break saw them endure some nervy moments late on.

Philippe Coutinho came as close as anyone to drawing the home side level, forcing Bernd Leno into a save with his last-gasp free-kick. The full-time whistle sounded as soon as the German palmed the ball to safety, with Arsenal’s players gathering in their own area to congratulate each other.

This seemingly irked Young who, as was the case with Ruben Neves last month, compared Arsenal’s celebrations to the kind you’d expect from a team who had just sealed a league title.

“We want to make this a tough place to come and I think it is a tough place,” he told VillaTV after the game.

“You saw the way they celebrated, to be honest, it was like they won the league. But it shows they found it tough. We want to be in those European places, we want to get the club back there, and everyone’s got that ambition to get the club back there. So, we want to make it a tough place to come but we want to be winning games as well.”

Meanwhile, Gerrard hit back at Saka after the Arsenal winger called for more protection following a robust challenge from Villa defender Tyrone Mings.

The former Liverpool midfielder said Saka simply must accept that tough challenges are part of the game in the Premier League.

“I am sitting here with screws in my hips,” Gerrard said on Saturday.

“I’ve had about 16 operations. I am struggling to go to the gym at the moment. That is all on the back of earning a living in English football.”

The victory took Arsenal four points clear of fifth-place Manchester United, having played a game more. They now appear in a strong position to get back into the Champions League, having last featured in the competition five years ago.