Even though Arsenal were on the losing side against Aston Villa on Saturday evening, Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher was still full of praise for William Saliba.
After winning the ball off Ollie Watkins and carrying it up the pitch in the second half, Carragher made his feelings clear about the defender’s performance :
“He’s been fantastic, Saliba.”
Saliba did a great job of marking Watkins out of the game, with the threatening Villa forward rarely getting the better of the Frenchman.
However, he couldn’t prevent his team from suffering only their second league defeat of the season, with John McGinn’s early goal ending up proving decisive at Villa Park.
Carragher is not the only pundit who is a huge admirer of Saliba’s
Last week, Arsenal legend Thierry Henry declared that the 22-year-old is already the “best defender” in the Premier League. That is some compliment but there will be few that will argue against those remarks based on his form in recent months.
Saliba simply breezes through games. When facing one-on-one duels, such as against Watkins on Saturday, he has the strength, anticipation and guile to get the better of his opponent. The centre-back is equally adept in possession, using his speed, balance and composure to carry the ball forward and make pinpoint passes.
Saliba didn’t deserve to be on the losing side
Many will argue about the decision to disallow Kai Havertz‘s goal but Arsenal had plenty of opportunities before that to equalise.
The likes of Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard and Eddie Nketiah were all guilty of fluffing their lines. That is borne out in the xG from the game, with the Gunners accruing 1.72 across the 90 minutes.