Former Arsenal and France midfielder Emmanuel Petit has heaped praise on William Saliba, while also explaining how the Gunners defender can emulate two Premier League icons from Manchester United and Chelsea respectively.
Saliba had loan spells at Saint-Etienne, Nice and Marseille before returning to the Emirates last summer and fighting for a starting spot under Mikel Arteta. Saliba went on to form a rock solid centre-back partnership with Gabriel, helping Arsenal challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title.
Of course, City ended up winning that battle, as Arsenal stumbled in the final few weeks. But Arteta and Arsenal gained plenty of admirers throughout the 2022-23 campaign, with Saliba establishing himself as one of their standout performers.
The 22-year-old remains an integral player for Arteta, having played every minute of every game so far. He is currently away on international duty with France and aiming to win his 10th cap.
During an interview with French source Le Progres (via But!), 1998 World Cup winner Petit lauded several aspects of Saliba’s game.
“He’s one of the best in England at centre-back. He’s a stalwart,” Petit said. “He has a lot of composure and personality on the pitch. He’s improved his communication, his reading of the game and his management of what’s behind him.
“He relied a bit on his strength and speed, but now, he’s adapted to the demands of English football.”
Petit went on to reveal one area Saliba can improve, which would see him get closer to Chelsea hero John Terry and Manchester United icon Rio Ferdinand.
William Saliba learns area to improve
“With his physical dimension, he could bring more to set pieces, like John Terry or Rio Ferdinand did. Passing out [from] the back, he’s progressed a lot and he shouldn’t hesitate to take risks to go up a level, especially in the style of game in place at Arsenal.”
When Arsenal loaned out Saliba for a third time, questions began to be asked. Fans were wondering why Arteta did not trust him, even though he had impressed with Saint-Etienne and Nice.
But Arteta and Arsenal have made the correct decision each time when it comes to Saliba’s development. They knew exactly when he was ready to be given his Prem debut. And they did not push him into the team early, as this may have harmed his progress.
Arsenal originally spent £27million when signing Saliba from Saint-Etienne in July 2019. At the time, he was only 18 years old.
But if the player goes on to reach his full potential, which looks set to be world class, then that £27m figure will end up being an absolute steal.