Can Arsenal do more to protect William Saliba?

  • William Saliba has made several mistakes recently
  • He has played almost every minute of the campaign
  • Arsenal cannot risk him getting another season-ending injury

FC Porto v Arsenal FC: Round of 16 First Leg - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
FC Porto v Arsenal FC: Round of 16 First Leg - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

The errors are beginning to rack up for William Saliba now, and they indicate that Arsenal must do more to protect him ahead of the final run-in.

His atypical sloppiness has been a feature of our recent games, with an ill-judged leap allowing Taiwo Awoniyi to score a consolation goal for Nottingham Forest in January and some defensive indecision gifting Liverpool an equaliser earlier this month.

Furthermore, it was Saliba’s ball-watching that almost (and should have) handed Porto a first-half opener in midweek, while the Frenchman was one of many Arsenal stars whose lack of Champions League experience showed during a bad night at the hostile Estádio do Dragão.   

Arsenal & William Saliba: can Mikel Arteta do more to protect his biggest asset?

One cannot pin the European blame entirely on Saliba, but his lapses in judgment are a big concern for us and perhaps attributable to an over-reliance on him this campaign. The 22-year-old has completed every match in the Premier League and all bar 28 UCL minutes; only coming off after the hour mark in the dead rubber against PSV Eindhoven.  

Of course, if the player is match fit and hungry to start, it makes sense for Mikel Arteta to oblige given what is at stake - especially when there is no obvious or comparable back-up option available.

However, our recent cricket scores saw the boss gladly rest a few key figures like Ben White, Declan Rice and Bukayo Saka, and he could have done similar with Saliba on the last two outings, with Reuell Walters being an unused sub for the 6-0 win at West Ham and Mohamed Elneny left on the bench for our 5-0 thrashing of Burnley.   

There is little reason to believe Walters is ready for first-team action and Arteta is not one to rush young players through ahead of schedule, but his selection is hardly a risk when the match is well wrapped up and Saliba needs fresh legs for other, bigger tests to come.

In those instances, would it not be wise to rest our one irreplaceable squad member - particularly when he is clearly not at his best- and thereby minimise the risk of him sustaining another season-ending injury?

Even these recent struggles do not overshadow the positive efforts of Saliba throughout this campaign, where his outstanding individual work has been a major factor in both our incredible backline improvement (currently the strongest in the league) and the title charge in general.

But even the best players need to be managed carefully and his constant selection, despite the alternatives we have and recent game states, suggests Arteta can do much more to protect his greatest asset.

Afford Saliba more time off and he will get back to feeling very top.