Do Arsenal have the best CB partnership in the world?

  • Arsenal are reaping the benefits of their “happy marriage” at the back
  • The Gunners have the best defensive record in the Premier League
  • Threat at both ends makes them a particularly strong pairing

Gabriel and William Saliba have worked imperiously in tandem
Gabriel and William Saliba have worked imperiously in tandem / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/GettyImages
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Probably.

Good things are said to befall those who wait, and Arsenal definitely bided their time in creating
the William Saliba/Gabriel centre-back partnership; one which now ranks among the strongest
in world football.

The Gunners’ incredible backline duo have led from the front this term, impressing even amid
our early-season stodginess and their contributions at either end of the pitch are a key reason
behind our current title-worthy form.

Their claim for ‘best-in-class’ status owes to a vast range of collective strengths, including their
effortless adaptation when positional changes occur around them (e.g. Ben White’s recent
inversion forcing Saliba to defend out wide and moving Gabriel into central areas).

They also exhibit a shared comfort in build-up phases and naturally dominate in both aerial and
ground duels; enabled by a rich blend of speed, physicality and the in-game intelligence to nullify
danger.

The high regard for them is only furthered upon a look at their offensive threat, with Saliba and
Gabriel combining for six goals and one assist this campaign. Although their height and others’
set-piece delivery play a major part here, they still maximise goal-scoring chances via their sharp
instincts in knowing where to attack and showing great hunger to beat opponents to the ball-
making them an equally formidable unit up top.


Where does the William Saliba/Gabriel defensive partnership rank in world football?

Gabriel dos Santos, William Saliba
Rock #1 and #2 / Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages

But before anyone (me) gets too carried away, we must not discount the stiff competition that
exists for the CB partnership crown in England and further afield - especially from other, more
successful pairs.

Domestically, Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konaté/Joel Matip offer us the sternest
test as they have won multiple cups together and boast a similarly unforgiving record at the back,
with Klopp’s men conceding only two more Premier League goals in 2023/24.

Meanwhile, the Inter Milan triumvirate of Stefan de Vrij/Alessandro Bastoni/Benjamin Pavard is proving very difficult to breach and forms a central cog in the Nerazzurri’s Serie A victory lap, astonishingly surrendering just 13 goals in 27 matches.

Perhaps it is impossible to compare backlines in this fashion as teams operate in different ways
and come up against different opposition styles. Additionally, defending, like every other aspect
of football, is a team effort and cannot be assessed by merely studying the numbers or actions of
a centre-back pairing.

But every metric and eye test sees Arsenal rank among the very best defences in Europe and,
while the work of their teammates is vital, no spectator can deny the starring role that Saliba and
Gabriel have performed in facilitating it - with the Brazil international being a particularly strong
contender for Player of the Year.

Talent, fantastic chemistry and remarkable stats make these two the envy of our division, and
they are right up there with the best CB partnerships in the world. Now we just need to translate
their eminence into trophies.


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