William Saliba rejoins Arsenal after a year loan with St. Etienne in the French Ligue 1.
Let’s back track a little before we look forward. Arsenal spent a load of money to purchase the young French defender from St. Etienne in July of 2019 for about $27M, then immediately loaned him back to the Ligue 1 club. He spent much of the season injured, playing in only 11 full games last season. St. Etienne’s best run of play came early in the season when Saliba, returning from an injury, started and played a full 90 minutes in four straight, earning three shutout wins and and a 2-2 draw. Another injury set him back nine games. His return was met with limited team success, as St. Etienne was relegated.
Saliba comes to an Arsenal team looking for a defensive upgrade. Arsenal finished 8th in goals conceded with ten clean sheets. Gunners’ keepers Bernd Leno and Emiliano Martinez combined for the most saves in the league (143) while facing the second most shots on target. That’s a lot of shots needing a lot of saves, which is not a sign of solid defense.
I won’t go into the troubles at the center back position for Arsenal (as there is a word count, and I don’t feel like crying as an Arsenal fan), but something has to improve for Arsenal to make a move back up the table.
Is William Saliba the guy?
He is young, but there is also a reason Arsenal spent that kind of money on him and why he may have an upside on your fantasy team.
He is a solid passer (almost 88% accuracy), which you’d think Mikel Arteta would like and utilize.
He is smart, with just two fouls committed in eleven full games this past year. You read that correctly: two. The Arsenal center backs all averaged at least 1 per game last season, including some truly costly ones.
He reads the game well. He averaged a little under two tackles and two interceptions per game.
He will need to improve his quality in the air, but with other big center backs around him, he could create a balance that successful center pairings have.
Saliba has potential as a fantasy player, but also doesn’t seem like a player who is going to light up the fantasy scoreboard. It will be interesting to see how Arteta brings him into the squad and if he can make a difference.
He most likely won’t be on my opening week roster, but watching some of his highlights makes me think Arsenal will be better with him in the lineup.
Will Saliba slot right into Arsenal’s lineup? If so, will he have the impact Gunner fans hope he will? He has to be better than the current options... right?