Transfer Focus: William Saliba can be big factor in solving Arsenal’s defensive problems

According to The Mirror, Arsenal are considering making a big-money move for St Etienne’s highly-rated centre-back William Saliba this summer.

What’s the word?

The Mirror claim that amidst a summer of a change at the Emirates, club captain and stalwart Laurent Koscielny could be on his way out of the Emirates with Borussia Dortmund interested in stepping up their efforts to sign the Frenchman.

With the veteran defender seemingly on his way out the report adds the Gunners will prepare a bid in the region of £27m for Saliba as a long-term replacement for Koscielny, and are leading Manchester United in the race to sign him.

A much-needed commanding presence

New manager, same flaws. When Arsene Wenger departed last summer after 22 years in charge and Unai Emery was brought in, the one thing Arsenal fans were probably expecting from their first season under their new boss was defensive solidity.

Instead they conceded 51 goals in the Premier League; a staggering 28 and 29 more than Manchester City and Liverpool respectively. Some of the Gunners’ poor record could be put down to a number of factors including injuries, but the likes of Shkodran Mustafi and Koscielny barely helped the cause either.

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Koscielny to his credit had come off the back of a long-term injury, but his performance in the Europa League final against Chelsea was that of someone who had virtually run his course. William Saliba on the other hand is at the start of his career and part of a St Etienne defence that conceded just 41 and finished in fourth in Ligue 1.

The prodigious youngster averaged two tackles and 1.8 interceptions per game; double the number of tackles made by his French compatriot Koscielny, and significantly better than Mustafi too. Perhaps slightly more intangible however is Saliba’s sheer presence and aura. At 6 ft 4, the France U19 international is an imposing figure and according to Arsenal ‘Invincible’ Lauren, he has all the tools to be a major success.

He said (via the Daily Mirror): “Strong, tall,  he reads the game very well, which is important for a player at the back and he looks very good at just 18, so the future is bright!”

With Arsenal’s defensive struggles well-known, an 18-year-old centre-half from the French league could miraculously be the saviour they desperately need.

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