Mikel Arteta says William Saliba was “superb” on his Arsenal debut, backing the decision to name the defender Man of the Match.
William Saliba had a bit of pressure on his shoulders as he took to the field on Friday night, playing his first competitive game for Arsenal three years after signing for the club in the Premier League’s opening game of the new campaign.
You wouldn’t have known it, though. The defender was fantastic in Arsenal’s 2-0 victory, and he picked up the Man of the Match award after the game.
Completing 100% of his take-ons and 94% of his passes, the defender was excellent in possession.
But he was also masterful off the ball, winning 100% of his aerial duels, making seven ball recoveries, and six clearances, without making a foul or being dribbled past once.
Speaking after the game, Mikel Arteta responded to the news that Saliba had won Man of the Match.
“Rightly so, I think he was superb tonight again,” Arteta said. “You want to win here, you’re going to have to dig in.
“We have to play, in moments, the game that we don’t want to play. They put four very physical players in your last line, that have the ability to turn your press all the time.
“From there you have to manage that game, which is not easy to do because they are so good at doing that.”
Saliba had already impressed in pre-season performances against Premier League sides Chelsea and Everton, as well as Champions League side Sevilla, but the question remained whether he could do the same in the matches that matter.
The early signs suggest a resounding ‘yes’.
The fans were already singing the French international’s name in the stands, and he’ll quickly make himself a favourite with supporters if he keeps playing like that.
Next up, Saliba should have the chance to play in front of those fans at the Emirates Stadium against Leicester City next weekend.
Meanwhile, Arsenal need to keep working to get his contract extended, amid their stance that he’s not for sale this summer.