Arsenal legend lauds Gunners star who passed derby test ‘with flying colours’; praises vital moment

Arsenal pair William Saliba and Gabriel Jesus

Martin Keown has praised William Saliba for passing his first north London derby test ‘with flying colours’ after Arsenal beat Tottenham 3-1 on Saturday.

Arsenal were looking to maintain their place at the top of the Premier League table. But it wouldn’t be easy as they were visited at the Emirates by local rivals Tottenham, who had thrashed Leicester City 6-2 before the international break.

Arsenal took the lead in the 20th minute when Thomas Partey met a Ben White pass and swept into the top corner from outside the area.

They were pegged back in the 31st minute when Harry Kane scored from the penalty spot. That came after Gabriel Magalhaes had brought down fellow Brazilian Richarlison in the box.

Arsenal regained the advantage after the break as Gabriel Jesus poked over the line after Hugo Lloris had failed to deal with a Bukayo Saka shot. This took Jesus’ Arsenal record to five goals in eight Premier League outings.

Tottenham wing-back Emerson Royal was then sent off for a bad challenge on Gabriel Martinelli.

Spurs were well and truly out of the match when Granit Xhaka fired past Lloris to make it 3-1. Arsenal saw out the win to make it 21 points from a possible 24.

It’s a good job Mikel Arteta’s side won too, as second-placed Manchester City thrashed Manchester United 6-3 on Sunday to stay just one point behind. If Arsenal had dropped points against Spurs, then they would have relinquished top spot.

William Saliba now integral for Arteta

Several Arsenal stars are impressing this season, with Arteta getting the best out of his team. One player who has done particularly well is French centre-back Saliba.

Arsenal spent £27million to sign him from Saint-Etienne in July 2019. He had three loan spells back in Ligue 1 before finally getting his chance in the Prem this term.

And Saliba has taken it brilliantly, forcing Ben White out to right-back. Saliba, who is still only 21 years old, is forming a solid defensive partnership with Gabriel.

He has helped Arsenal to keep clean sheets against Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Brentford so far this campaign.

Saliba largely managed to keep Son Heung-min quiet on Saturday. He also shrugged Richarlison off the ball, an action which drew praise from former Arsenal defender Keown.

He thinks the game was a big test for Saliba, and the seven-time France international stood up to the challenge.

“[Saliba] looks the real deal to me,” Keown said on BT Sport (via HITC). “This is an examination in these derby games and he’s coming through it with flying colours.”

Ferdinand sings the praises of Saliba

Keown isn’t the only pundit to praise Saliba recently. On Saturday, Manchester United hero Rio Ferdinand was asked what makes the centre-half so good. “I think his composure, he’s very strong, mobile but it’s the composure in the pressure situations,” Ferdinand replied.

“He was the most composed centre-back on the pitch today – especially for Arsenal.

“There were times today where in transition, Arsenal could’ve got hurt but how many times did we see him come out with the ball.

“At the top level, you need to be calm, composed in these situations and at the moment, he’s showing that beyond his years but he has had to be patient and going away which shows he’s got character.

“I’m sure he’ll have a good career going here, he’s only been here short amount of time but he’s already become a fan favourite.”

Gabriel and White did well in the centre of defence last season, but Saliba is now on his way to becoming the best central defender at the club.

It is a shame for White, who will feel he should be a part of the England setup as well. However, Saliba is impressing Arteta and will surely be a part of the Arsenal team for years to come.

Meanwhile, Fabrizio Romano claims a club tried to sign Saliba in the summer but found him to be untouchable.