William Saliba has been ‘our best’: Marseille expert examines Mikel Arteta’s divisive Arsenal decision

The relationship between William Saliba and Arsenal has almost become legendary in itself for its controversy. The Frenchman joined Arsenal in a deal close to £30 million in 2019 and is yet to make his senior debut for the team.

Instead, he has embarked this season on his third loan since his signature, signing for Marseille alongside fellow Arsenal wantaway Matteo Guendouzi. This has come as a big disappointment to many Arsenal supporters who have wanted the young defender to be given a chance.

Mikel Arteta deemed Saliba not ready for the first team when he returned from his first loan away from Arsenal, a pre-arranged spell back with Saint-Etienne.

Even after an impressive six months with Nice, Arteta seemingly had been unchanged in his view of the Frenchman. After talks at Arsenal, the search begun to find Saliba another temporary home and despite the club’s ambition to see him join a Premier League side, the 20-year-old pushed to return to France.

Since returning, Saliba has been a key figure for the OM side. He has started all 4 games, including the suspended fixture against Nice, on the right of a back 3.

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He has been excellent in the opening games and this is supported by the OM fans. English-speaking podcast The Marseille View spoke to The Gooner Talk about Saliba’s start to life under Jorge Sampaoli.

“Saliba, I think I can honestly say he’s been our best defender,” said Ben Senouillet from the Marseille View. “He’s been solid, he’s quick.”

Arsenal’s defence so far has seen both Rob Holding and Pablo Mari get turned inside out on several occasions. A lack of mobility from the defenders with both Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes unavailable has been glaringly obvious.

The signings of White and Gabriel pointed towards moving into a system whereby the defenders needed to be able to play out from the back.

William Saliba has been excellent with his distribution since moving to Marseille, recording a 100% accuracy in multiple passing metrics.
William Saliba has been excellent with his distribution since moving to Marseille, recording a 100% accuracy in multiple passing metrics.

This is what confuses supporters of both Arsenal and Marseille even further because Saliba’s passing statistics have been excellent so far.

Of his 253 passes so far, 96% have found their target. 100% accuracy for all 32 passes into the final third. 2 passes into the box have also found their mark. Saliba is excelling in his distribution and it is progressive too.

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Shown below are the forward passes in the 3-1 win over Saint-Etienne. Saliba showing he clearly wants to move the ball into the midfield and the wider areas too to start attacks.

William Saliba forward pass map vs Saint Etienne.
William Saliba forward pass map vs Saint Etienne.

When asked if Saliba’s passing performances are cause for further scrutiny of the decision to send him on loan, Senouillet replies questioning the decision of Arsenal.

“Well, if he’s capable? Yes, why have you gone out and splashed the cash on players that aren’t necessarily complimentary, or that you need to mould into this process or this Arsenal system you’re trying to implement when seemingly you have a ready-made player here?” Senouillet asks.

White and Gabriel are set to return against Norwich City this weekend. However, should either face any further absences, and their replacements falter again, the Saliba debate is sure to rear its head once again.

How might Saliba have got regular game time for Arsenal this season? Follow our new Arsenal Fan Brands Writer Tom Canton to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

Source by Football London

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