BT Sport pundit Michael Owen says William Saliba’s absence played a key role in Arsenal’s 4-1 defeat to Manchester City.
The Frenchman was ruled out of contention with a chronic back injury but Owen believes the defender would have been able to handle Erling Haaland, in contrast to his understudy Rob Holding:
“One player was missing and that’s possibly their most important player for this game and that’s Saliba. If he was playing against Haaland, we might have seen him controlled a little bit better. He was a massive miss and one that Arsenal couldn’t afford.”
“That was a total mismatch, in the end, him against Holding and I think if Mikel Arteta had him fit, I am not saying it would have been a different result, but he would have been a lot quieter.”
There is no doubt that Saliba’s fitness problems have played a huge part in the Gunners’ title challenge unravelling in recent weeks.
Mikel Arteta’s side have not kept a clean sheet since the defender was sidelined, conceding 13 goals in only six games. Considering they had only let in 25 in 27 fixtures before that, you can see how big a miss Saliba has been.
Of course, against City, those problems were exacerbated, with Haaland and his partner in crime, Kevin De Bruyne, taking advantage. It’s hard not to think what might have been if Saliba was fit. They may have still conceded goals but probably not nearly as many.