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Saliba is the new leader of Arsenal’s defense.

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The Emirates have a new favorite – there is hardly a player in the new season whose actions (even the usual pas with a partner) are met with such warmth as it is with William Saliba.

The French center-back is only 21 years old, but he has been owned by Arsenal since the summer of 2019, and the transfer from Saint-Etienne cost as much as 30 million euros. From then until August 2022 – 0 matches for the main team. Even a year ago, fans could hardly imagine that in the 2022/23 Premier League, William would still break into the squad.

 

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Arsenal bought Saliba as one of the best young defenders in the world

Saliba was born and raised in Bondi, a commune in the northeastern suburbs of Paris, which is only 11 km from the capital. Neighbored with Kylian Mbappe – William is two years younger. Not just two mega-talents in the same area: Kilian’s father Wilfrid was Salib’s first football coach.

 

We went to elementary school together, studied together at the Bondi Academy. Mbappé moved to Monaco in 2014, Saliba to Saint-Étienne in 2016.

 

William was exemplarily brought to the main team of Saint-Etienne. He pumped up his leadership qualities, captaining the youth team of the club, but he was given the first games on the basis only on the road. Coach Jean-Louis Gasse believed that the fiery atmosphere of the Geoffroy Guichard stadium would influence negatively on Saliba in the event of a weak performance. The expectations were too high.

 

Saliba staggered on loans

Arsenal seemed to have done everything right: they won the fight for one of the most talented CBs in the world and immediately sent the 18-year-old Saliba back to Saint-Etienne on a one-year loan. A familiar environment and an unconditional place at the start is the perfect alignment for progress.

 

In the summer of 2020, the Frenchman returned to the team of another coach: Arsenal bought him under Unai Emery, and now Mikel Arteta managed everything. William carefully pointed out this – hardly by accident: «Unai Emery talked to me even before the transfer, and I ended up with Arteta. I was almost 5-6 months without training while Arsenal finished the championship».

 

The loan to Marseille changed everything

Waiting for a new lease. Saliba could hardly have imagined how a season at Marseille would change everything.

Marseille was purchased under Jorge Sampaoli. The coach begged for several Brazilians from the local Serie A, in addition to them came a rental bonus from Roma (Under and Pau Lopez) and Arsenal (Saliba and Guendouzi). It’s been a great season, with Marseille back in the Champions League group finishing second and playing a unique game of constant player interchangeability.

Saliba was one of the main figures in the Sampaoli system. He led Marseille in minutes in Ligue 1 (3240, 36 complete matches), was named to the symbolic team of the year, and won the prize for the best young player in Ligue 1.

Arteta is constantly asked about Saliba, and he shares on-duty, but very necessary compliments: «William improves every day, I like his thirst for progress. Cooperation with partners is improving. I am glad that the integration looks natural.

Rachel Adams

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