Arsenal are basking in a brilliant season at present, with the cogs finally clicking into place and the side challenging for major honours on the domestic and continental front.
While the Gunners’ manager Mikel Arteta will be wary of progress seeing disruption following the midseason break, making way for the ongoing 2022 World Cup in Qatar, one positive that the Spaniard manager can take is William Saliba’s maiden appearance at the tournament, with the young titan exhibiting many of the qualities that have granted his starting spot in the Premier League table-toppers side.
Signed from Saint Etienne in a deal rising to £27m in 2019, Saliba spent his first three seasons for Arsenal back on loan in his homeland, finally making his debut for the North London outfit this season.
And it’s no coincidence that his place in the side coincides with an upturn in form and a laudable tightening of the defence.
His fantastic performances for his club this term, earning him a Premier League rating of 7.05, as per Sofascore, have persuaded French national manager Didier Deschamps to include him in the squad as the nation targets a successive World Cup triumph.
Failing to make an appearance across Les Bleus’ opening two group fixtures, the 21-year-old finally earned his shot in the culminating match against Tunisia, and despite the 1-0 defeat, Saliba provided defensive cover and assurance at the back after coming on in the second half.
During his 27 minutes on the pitch, Saliba completed all 37 of his passes, bringing a sprinkle of the ball-playing prowess that Arteta demands from his Arsenal players.
The Gunners phenom also completed his one dribble and won both of his duels in the match, making one key pass as France looked to find an equaliser that ultimately failed to materialise.
With France looking to play high-intensity football with an onus on technicality, Saliba is staking a considerable claim that he is the man to start transitions from the back, with FBref claiming he ranks within the top 3% for pass completion and the top 5% for dribbles completed when compared to centre-backs across Europe’s top five leagues across the past year.
Once hailed as “untouchable” by Fabrizio Romano, the eight-cap international has certainly staked his claim to enter the starting fold for the first time in the tournament, with France topping their group despite their defeat against Tunisia and earning a knockout fixture against Poland as a result.
Despite his youthful years, the £42.7m-rated colossus is beginning to emerge at the very forefront of global football, and if his performance in the previous match – coupled with his stunning displays for Arsenal – are anything to go by, then he could bask in further success before the tournament in Qatar draws to a close.