‘The rock of Marseille’: 11 amazing quotes on Arsenal’s William Saliba

Quick Reads
Marseille defender William Saliba during their match against Lazio in Rome, Italy, October 2021.

Arsenal defender William Saliba has performed so well on loan at Marseille this season that a deluge of compliments has come his way – and Real Madrid are rumoured to be interested in his signature.

After previous loan spells at Saint Etienne and Nice, Saliba was sent on his third loan spell to Ligue 1 in August – with the decision made by Mikel Arteta raising plenty of eyebrows amongst the Arsenal support.

We’ve collected 11 amazing quotes from players, coaches, pundits and journalists that highlight the impact Saliba has made at Marseille this season.

Stephy Mavididi

Mavididi, a former Arsenal player who’s taking Ligue 1 by storm for Montpellier this season, has questioned Arsenal’s decision to loan out Saliba for the third time.

He had positive things to say about the 20-year-old central defender who he says simply: “How is this guy not playing at Arsenal?”

Speaking in an interview with LiveScore, the 23-year-old forward said: “That guy’s a player. He’s hands down one of the best defenders in the league, hands down.

“I think he’ll walk back into the Arsenal team next season. When I played against him last year I thought ‘how is this guy not playing at Arsenal?’

“He’s strong, good on the ball, he reads the game well.

“Sometimes you walk off the pitch and think ‘fair play man, respect’ – the defender has kept up with you, out tussled you, out quitted you, you have to say fair play, this guy’s a good player.”

“He’s one of the best centre-backs I’ve faced,” he added. “Everyone can talk about Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Jerome Boateng, but he’s up there.

“He’s the one that surprised me the most. I’m an Arsenal fan too and playing against Saliba I thought, we’ve got a very decent defender here.”

READ: Arsenal fans look away, Stephy Mavididi’s become a hero in France

Ian Wright

Speaking on Premier League Productions after Arsenal’s hammering at Manchester City in August, Wright was confused by Arsenal’s decision to loan Salbia out.

“I’m supposed to believe that Kolasinac – someone that they’re trying to get rid of – is better than William Saliba?” he questioned. “Saliba, who is out on loan and apparently not at the [required] standard.

“So if [Saliba] is not at the standard to play in this team – and Kolasinac can play – why have we bought him? Because if Kolasinac can play in front of him, what’s going on? Why have we bought him?”


The Arsenal defender graced the front cover of sports newspaper L’Equipe back in November 2021.

The picture showed him at his most imposing, all muscle and physical power, and the headline described him as the ‘rock’ of Marseille. The cover also described him as ‘indispensable’ to his side, underlining the impact he’s had in France this season.

Jorge Sampaoli

“He’s a top player at his position. We were lucky to get him on loan, it wasn’t simple,” Sampaoli told reporters back in September after Saliba had made an eye-catching start at the Stade Velodrome.

“He’s great at marking, but good bringing the ball out too. He’s a future great of French football, he’s very good at starting plays.

“He’s adapted to a three at the back well, and his performances are linked to the team’s, which likes to play from the back.”

Matt Spiro

“It’s baffling. He wasn’t Arteta’s signing. Unai Emery was there when they signed him. But when Arteta says he’s not ready for the Premier League, it irks a little bit because it’s a line that’s swallowed too easily.

“The Premier League is very intense but Wesley Fofana slotted in easily at Leicester. He’s the comparison.

“Last season it was all the more baffling because we were watching David Luiz, Pablo Mari and Rob Holding play for Arsenal.

“If Arsenal had two or three exceptional centre-backs you could understand it. But last season I have no doubt Saliba could have done a good job for Arsenal.

“Now, Arteta says he needs to work on his game. But Ben White has things he needs to work on too. All I know is, he’s ready for the Premier League.”

Dimitri Payet

Earlier this season, Payet told L’Equipe (via Sport Witness): “The new ones have all brought something different. After that, I am closer to younger players.

“So, the one that impresses me the most is “Willie” (William Saliba). Considering what he’s been doing since the start of the season, I don’t understand why he hasn’t played more for Arsenal.”

Payet has Premier League experience himself with West Ham and presumably knows what it takes to succeed in the division – and has identified Saliba in possessing the potential to achieve just that.

Samir Nasri

Nasri, speaking to Marseille’s official YouTube channel in October, said: “He has all the qualities to play in the Premier League. He’s well built, quick and a good passer of the ball too.

“I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be in Arsenal’s team.”

The former midfielder was a Gunners and Marseille icon and his assessment of Saliba would have caught the attention of many people.

Nicolas St-Maurice

St-Maurice, known as ‘The Power Coach’, is renowned for improving elite athletes’ explosiveness – and has previously worked with Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema.

“He’s a very nice guy, very hard working,” he told Football London last September. “We worked on a number of things such as speed, power, you know he’s a big guy also and he’s strong.

“When you’re so young and you’re big and strong you aren’t as quick as the smaller guys. We worked a bit on that and he did really well.

“When I first saw him I thought of Van Dijk because of his positions of plays and he has the right potential to make it far.

“I know a lot of young players I can see that some get distracted when they come to Dubai but he was working hard and he’s got the right environment.

“William is humble. Arsenal fans are annoyed right now because he’s not at the club and he’s doing really well in Marseille but I think last season he missed some games on top of COVID. Saliba needs to play more and he will come good.

“He does not want to come to Arsenal and sit on the bench – that’s not his mentality. He wants to be playing for Arsenal. I think next season he will make a solid case for himself.”

Loic Perrin

Perrin, a former team-mate of Saliba’s at Saint Etienne, is another player who cannot understand why Arteta loaned out his young defender.

“I don’t understand how they didn’t even try him at least once,” he said last August.

“When you observe him since his beginnings at Saint-Etienne… He’s calm, cold, lucid. In one-on-one situations, he’s got extraordinary footing and always gets out of it.

“Furthermore, he’s a great kid to have in a group. At Nice, after many months without playing, he was good immediately when Nice were in bad form.

“And at Marseille, in a crazy atmosphere, same thing. He doesn’t get carried away. He could have given something to Arsenal.”

Adrian Ursea

“He is already a leader,” Nice boss Ursea said last season. “William gives a lot of personality.

“This assurance can be seen from the videos that we have watched with him and we can see it daily.

“It is true that from the perspective of a young player who has arrived, to lead the defence like that already in the manner he has done is surprising.

“You have to understand that this also surprised me. You get the impression that he has been here for a while. He is going to help his teammates, he is very interested in the game and he gives off a lot of maturity.”

Robin Bairner

“It’s worth noting that Marseille play in a very open style which makes it pretty difficult for defenders,” said Bairner, a French football expert and a regular contributor to Goal.

“New signing Luan Peres, for example, has struggled to fit into the style and has been carried to some extent by those around him, including Saliba. At times he’s been doing the job of two.

“He’s already a popular figure and when he has made mistakes – and there have been a couple of significant ones – these have been quickly forgiven due to him getting the team out of trouble on such a regular basis.”

More Arsenal

William Saliba at Marseille: From Arsenal outcast to Ligue 1 superstar

Can you name every French player to appear for Arsenal in the PL?

7 Arsenal players that fell out with Mikel Arteta – & what happened next

Arsenal fans look away, Stephy Mavididi’s become a hero in France