2 – William Saliba is (still) a rock
It was July 25th 2019 that Arsenal first signed Saliba for the grand total of £27m and it’s taken over three years and as many loan moves to see him make a competitive debut.
The truth is, I haven’t seen a debut performance like his for a long, long time and it finally feels like Arsenal have the missing piece of the defensive puzzle.
Arsenal are spoilt for choice when it comes to centre backs and the return of Saliba has been a genuinely exciting arrival that has stepped up the game of everyone else.
Voted the best Young Player of the Year in Ligue 1 following his season-long spell at Marseille, the 21-year-old laid on a professional performance that opened up his quality to all those watching, and that’s not just Arsenal fans.
We’ve seen what Saliba has been capable of in pre-season but we were all waiting to see how he’d fair in a London derby, away from home, under the lights, whilst all eyes were waiting for an Arsenal collapse.
The result, phenomenal. Saliba kept all four of Palace’s forwards quiet throughout the 90 minutes, completing 100% of his aerial duels and take-ons.
With 49 passes his completion rate was 94% and he managed to win three duels, seven ball recoveries and six clearances as Arsenal dug deep to hold on to their 1-0 scoreline.
A performance rounded off with the fact that nobody dribbled past him, Saliba was rightly awarded the Man of the Match award with high praise coming from pundits, Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville, who likened him to a young Rio Ferdinand.