Why William Saliba is Arsenal's most valuable asset

  • Saliba has shown this season why he is absolutely priceless to the Gunners' and one of the most important parts of this team
William Saliba has been outstanding this season
William Saliba has been outstanding this season / Visionhaus/GettyImages

William Saliba only turned 23 this year and has played just two seasons of Premier League football but has evolved into one of the best defenders in the world in that short time.

The French international joined Arsenal from Saint-Etienne in 2019 for £27m and was regarded as one of the 'next big things'. He was loaned back to the French side immediately and spent the next two seasons in his home nation with spells at Nice and Marseille.

Many questioned if Mikel Arteta would ever give Saliba a real chance at Arsenal amid the loan moves but it finally happened in the summer of 2022. Since making his Gunners debut in a 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace, he has become a permanent fixture in Arteta's side and has become one of the team's most important players, especially after penning a new long-term deal last summer.

Why William Saliba is Arsenal's most valuable asset

William Saliba
Saliba has been extremely consistent since his Arsenal debut / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Saliba was solid at the back for Arsenal last season but his campaign ended prematurely after he sustained an unfortunate back injury. His absence from the side for the final months of the season had a great effect on the Gunners, eventually costing them the Premier League title.

He has bounced back from the injury this season and has taken his game to the next level. The Frenchman has played all 37 of Arsenal's league matches and notched 3330 minutes of Premier League football - the maximum amount possible. This proves he can now be relied on in terms of fitness.

Saliba has kept the most clean sheets out of any Premier League player this season, with 18. His dominant presence in the centre of defence has been a great factor in helping the Gunners be the best side defensively in the division, having conceded just 28 goals all season.

The France international has also formed a formidable partnership with Gabriel Magalhaes which has allowed Arsenal to become a genuinely sound defensive team after years of ridicule for poor mistakes at the back.

While either player in the partnership is as important as the other, Saliba's towering dominance improves the pair immensely. Jamie Carragher even claimed that if the pair stay together for the next three to four years, they will be talked about alongside great Premier League partnerships such as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

Saliba has risen to the big occasion more than once this season. He has earned Man of the Match honours at three of the toughest Premier League stadiums to visit, in the form of the Etihad, Anfield and Old Trafford.

Added to this, he completely dominated Erling Haaland and kept him incredibly quiet in the three games they have faced each other this season.

Erling Haaland, William Saliba
Erling Haaland is yet to get the better of Saliba / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

Saliba's ability to put in such brilliant performances at difficult grounds and to dominate one of the best strikers in world football show just how good of a defender he really is and thus how crucial he is to this Arsenal side.

His dominance in defence is illustrated in the fact he has been dribbled past only five times this season, putting him in the 91st percentile of Premier League players.

The Frenchman also has a decent disciplinary record, having only received four yellow cards in the Premier League this season, working out to 833 minutes per card. He has also conceded only one penalty in his whole Arsenal career and that was a result of a controversial VAR call against Chelsea, so there are no disciplinary concerns.

Saliba sits in the 97th percentile of players for pass completion rate with 92.48%, having made 2446 successful passes out of 2645 attempted. This fits well with Arsenal's style of passing play and also works out when the team want to play from the back.

His capability of playing out from the defence and his dominance on the ball further reinforce the argument that Saliba is Arsenal's most valuable asset.

Despite making some mistakes this season, Saliba has continued to improve and plays every game as if he is a seasoned professional and not just 23 years old. He has received plaudits from many top players, pundits and the media as a result and he will continue to do so for years to come.

There is no doubt that without Saliba's contribution to the team and the defence specifically, this Arsenal side would not be playing at the level they currently are.

William Saliba's defensive ability, calmness on the ball and consistent fitness, among other factors, all point to him being Arsenal's most valuable asset.