This article is part of Football FanCast’s Transfer Focus series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent transfer news…
According to The Evening Standard, Arsenal are inching ever closer to securing a deal for St Etienne’s teenage prospect William Saliba.
Reports in recent weeks had suggested that Arsenal’s number one priority at centre-back was trying to seal a deal for Saliba. The 18-year-old burst onto the scene at St Etienne last season, leading to great speculation over whether he could be on the move this summer.
Now, The Evening Standard report that Unai Emery’s side are closing in on a £25m move for the Frenchman and that as part of the agreement to sign him, the defender will return to St Etienne on a season-long loan. Whilst the Gunners may feel slightly aggrieved at potentially not seeing Saliba anytime soon, the prospect has shown that he could be well worth the wait.
One of the big criticisms of Emery’s debut campaign in charge at the Emirates was his apparent failure to really improve the defence. The hallmarks of all the defensive troubles endured under the Arsene Wenger reign remained untouched; the Gunners were brittle, panicky and never assured. Traits that were hideously exposed in arguably the side’s costliest result of the season when they were turned over 3-2 by Crystal Palace.
The indoor football skills in the video below have to be seen to be believed…
In Saliba, Arsenal would be getting a teenager who played last year with the composure of a seasoned veteran. The 18-year-old boasted an impressive 85.6% accuracy from his 40.3 average passes per game and seemed completely nonplussed when put under pressure.
Indeed, his exemplary disciplinary record paints a truly startling picture as to how cool, calm and collected the defender has proven to be. In his 16 appearances last season for St Etienne, Saliba received just the solitary yellow card.
In comparison, Arsenal’s blundering centre-back Shkodran Mustafi received nine across the campaign. Saliba also committed just 0.6 fouls per game; his German counterpart on the other hand contrived to make 1.4.
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Gunners fans have long been used to centre-backs sliding into unnecessary challenges or getting bullied off the ball. Standing at 6 foot 4, Saliba is an absolute beast compared to some of the current Arsenal defenders and is a reassuring physical presence at the back, while also being cool as a cucumber in possession.
If getting a deal for the Frenchman over the line means waiting another season for him, then the Gunners should not think twice about it.