‘Reminds me of Varane’ – Eight quotes on Arsenal prospect William Saliba
The club have been struggling in Ligue 1, down in 17th and battling against relegation, but the 19-year-old centre-half has been praised for his individual displays – and many back him to slot straight into the backline for Mikel Arteta’s Gunners next season.
Here’s what’s been said about Salba from his manager and team-mates to former Arsenal defenders.
“Rather than buying a ready-made player, I’d rather we buy him to develop him and help him grow,” said his manager at Saint-Etienne.
“It’s hard to accept that we sell our best player, a young kid, to help fill the coffers.
“When you have to sell your gems to round up the budget and then do short-term deals to fill in the gaps, you’re being reactionary.”
“He is very confident in defending, he is not afraid to defend one against one and most of the time he wins the duels, which is the best quality as a defender,” Sagna told Goal.
“You need some security, you need some presence and he has that.
“For him, staying in the French League after signing for Arsenal was the best decision he could make because he knew he was going to change to a bigger club, but he knew he had to improve his performances.
“It was like a test, he had to step up his game during this season and the last game I watched of him was amazing. I analysed him as an Arsenal fan and he did very well.”
William Saliba's 2019/20 season by numbers in Ligue 1:
❍ 12 appearances
❍ 476 passes completed
❍ 88% pass accuracy rate
❍ 35 clearances
❍ 30 aerial duels won
❍ 21 interceptions
❍ 19 tackles
❍ 6 take-ons completed
Bon Anniversaire. 🎂 pic.twitter.com/NwkbIR3Jko
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 24, 2020
“William Saliba will start from the get-go when he joins Arsenal next season.
“He’s currently playing for a struggling Saint-Etienne side, but his performances have been good and he’s been consistent.”
James McNicholas (Gunnerblog)
“He has experienced players around him — Mathieu Debuchy, once of Arsenal, is stationed on the right flank,” he wrote for The Athletic.
“M’Vila’s calming presence is absent in this game but former Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye is an able deputy.
“Not that Saliba needs much help. It’s he who leads the defensive line, arms outstretched, encouraging those around him and admonishing them when they fail to follow his instructions.”
“Saliba is strong, and hopefully he will adapt himself really quickly. In a club like Arsenal with French players, I think he can do really well.”
“He’s a great player. I’m so happy for him to play next season for a big club like Arsenal,” his Saint-Etienne team-mate told the official Ligue 1 podcast.
“He improves every game, and I think he is a great player. He’s strong, with good technique. He’s quick, too. I think he has a lot of quality to play at Arsenal.”
St Etienne pair back ‘big, strong’ William Saliba to succeed at #Arsenal
— Matt Spiro (@mattspiro) February 4, 2020
“Aside from his footballing qualities, he already had a lot of charisma for a young player of 13 years old who was playing U15s. In the dressing room, he was a force and he would say the right things,” said his former coach at Montfermeil.
“He looked everyone in the eyes. And he quickly understood that he could only achieve his dreams by accepting to become a central defender like I repeated to him, and not as a midfielder or even attacker like he was at AS Bondy.” (per GFFN)
“William Saliba will go far, very far. He reminds me of Raphaël Varane,” said the coach that saw him develop at Under-12 and Under-13 level.
“As a kid, he was already above the rest, technically clean, comfortable with the ball. I have never seen a kid have such a desire to succeed.”