‘Boss of the defence’ – What people are saying about William Saliba’s fine form

Quick Reads

After being frozen out at Arsenal by Mikel Arteta, William Saliba has shown why he’s so highly-rated during a loan spell at Nice over the second half of 2020-21.

Saliba, who joined the Gunners for a reported £27million in the summer of 2019was left out of their Premier League and Europa League squads by Arteta and is yet to make a first-team appearance for the club. 

We’ve rounded up what people have been saying about the talented centre-back since his move to Nice in January. 

Adrian Ursea

“When you have a young player of his age who arrives at a new club and who exudes this personality in the middle of the defence, despite only knowing the guys for one day, I find that very encouraging for the future,” the manager said after Saliba’s debut against Brest.

“He also gives off a calm air that the team needs. I’m not interested in age. The only question about a rookie is whether he’s a good player or not.

“William will bring us even more along the way in training and matches.”

L’Equipe 

“He guides and instructs the defence, and gives the impression he’s been there a long time,” the French outlet noted after Nice’s 1-0 win against Lens. “He has just arrived but has already shown he is the boss of the defence.”

Adrian Ursea

“You can see he has character and above all, he reassures the others,” Ursea told beIN SPORTS in February. “He’s not vocal, but he’s a leader in his own way.

“To see you a young lad who isn’t even 20 yet playing with such assurance against strikers like Wissam Ben Yedder and Kevin Volland, it really is quite amazing.”

Nice

The club website’s review of Saliba’s first month read: “Through his presence, his impact and his ability on the ball, he has quickly brought what he was signed for: his ability to defend with a calm head.

“In the middle of a difficult period (4 defeats and 1 win in January), his qualities haven’t been enough to get the squad back on the right track, but they represent ‘a positive sign, upon which things can be built’ as Adrian Ursea regularly explains.”

Amine Gouiri

“Saliba and Todibo are very good technically, they are quick and they are strong in duels,” the Nice striker said in February. “They allow us to play football the way we want, to keep the ball and to stay high up the field.”

Adrian Ursea

“I think we have got a good balance now,” Ursea said after their 2-1 defeat to PSG in February. “Both centre-backs [Todibo and Saliba] bring a lot of calmness and give us stability.

“You can see that they know what they are doing. Playing like that against such quality strikers and bringing the ball out like they did is a massive positive for the future.”

Bacary Sagna

“I still have trust in him, I think he is a good player and he can adapt to Arsenal because I’ve seen him play many times,” Sagna told Goal in March.

“He is doing well at Nice and has probably been their best player. At that age you need to be playing. He has big potential and in France, people know it.

“Sending him away is not a bad thing, it’s not a punishment. To me, it’s clever to send him [on loan] rather than him being on the bench or not even being in the squad.”

Amy Lawrence

“Nice are so happy with Saliba they last week presented the case for his impact with a statistical analysis that demonstrated his positive influence both at the club and more widely in the league,” Lawrence wrote in The Athletic in April.

“The analysis showed he was the best in the Nice squad for aerial duels, top for touches of the ball, is the player who has made the most passes and is second-best for interceptions.

“Across the numbers, he is consistently rating extremely highly for his team, and impressively highly league-wide. 

“Since returning to France, he has never been dribbled past or beaten by an opponent on the floor, and has been in the top five in the league for ball recoveries.”


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