Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard were yesterday confirmed as being two of the top ‘something-or-other’ on the Balloon D’or awards yesterday, with the competition once again being won by Messi in what is football’s biggest popularity contest. I’m pleased for Bukayo and Martin to get the accolades for their performance, but the competition in itself I’ve always been a bit ‘meh’ about if I’m honest. It is an individual award in a team sport. It really means little in that sense to us supporters other than being nice to see him recognised, but in reality it’s a flawed competition. I mean Man United’s Onana finished above him and Emi Martinez is supposedly the best ‘keeper in the world? Do me a favour. We’ve got two better ones in our Arsenal squad, and one of them isn’t even getting a look in right now.

So I’ll say no more on a pretty  meaningless trinket and instead focus on our Starboy and his comments about burnout. As you’d expect, given that he is one of Arteta’s main charges, he very much towed the party line in his comments and when you read what he said, it almost feels like he could have had Arteta whispering the words in his ear before he recited them to The Standard. I don’t mind that though; if your best players and managers are aligned and in sync, then you’re more than likely to have success when it comes to the most important stuff, which is on the pitch.

And both Arteta and Saka are right when they say about the best players being able to play three times a week. At 22 years old – around 2009 – Messi had played 53 games in all competitions. Saka played 48 last season and you’d imagine if we’d have got further in other competitions he’s probably have got to 53. So in terms of aspiring for a level of consistency then certainly you can’t look much further than Messi.

But we need to acknowledge some caveats here, because Messi has played in a league that is much less physically demanding league for most of his career compared to Saka. Messi has certainly had defenders try to kick lumps out of him, for sure, and you can certainly find YouTube footage of him getting the ‘Maradona’ treatment I”ll bet. But it doesn’t come with the same level of consistent physicvality that the Premier League does. In the Premier League players are clattered in to every week. That doesn’t happen in La Liga. It will on certain games, like El Classico and some with the likes of Stletico Madrid down the years, but for a big chunk of games there is a lot more ball and a lot less physicality in matches. I remember going to watch Barcelona play Celta Vigo about 10 years ago. Messi and David Villa ran the show. Park Chu Young was on Celta Vigo’s team, on loan for us (which should date it a little more accurately, if my dates are out) But The Management was with me and asked what the difference is between Spanish and English football and I said “I’ll show you in the next passage of play”. I then proceeded to count every time a Barcelona player had the ball, between when he received it and when he was closed down. In some instances I was counting up to eight or nine seconds. You just don’t get that time in the Premier League.

Now, I’m recounting this anecdote note to belittle Messi’s achievements, because he’s clearly the greatest footballer of all time and I have been privileged enough to watch him in the flesh on a number of occasions. But what I’m trying to say is that every week in the Premier League – ironically enough barring this weekend just gone for us with Sheffield United – you usually get pressed and hassled a lot quicker than you do for a big chunk of La Liga games.

So, with that in mind, doesn’t it stand to reason that you are more likely than not to have less chance of picking up knocks than you would in the Premier League? I think so.

We also have a cautionary tale with some of our own players over the years. We all know the unfortunate story of Jack Wilshere, so I won’t labour the point too much, but there was a guy who came in at an early age, whose body couldn’t handle the rigour of the Premier League and the knocks and kicks, then as soon as he hit 30 he was essentially at retirement age. Now, Saka has already shown he can ride out many of the kicks and hopefully his body is more robust than Jack’s was, but we’d be crazy as Arsenal fans not to recognise this.

And it is because of what we’ve seen with the Ramsey’s, the Eduardo’s, the Diaby’s,; all talented players whose Arsenal careers were blighted by injury. We ourselves as Arsenal fans have our own traumas of this so we are acutely aware of the need to get the balance right. We’ve all got the battle scars from having seasons derailed by promising players being absent for large periods of time (Vermaelen, Rosicky, Tierney, anyone?). Arsenal have a fantastic medical team who will all have the latest tools and the best experience to manage players so I hope – and think – we are in good hands, but regardless of that it won’t stop fans like me worrying when we have such an elite talent as Saka.

Finding that balance, getting him to communicate with the medical team, getting them to take calls based on his fatigue levels, will be essential in ensuring we keep him fit and delivering for us not just this season, but for many seasons to come.

Catch you all tomorrow.