Arsenal legend Emmanuel Petit thinks Mikel Arteta could have his own John Terry or Rio Ferdinand if William Saliba can learn to attack set pieces and reach another level.
Petit is already in love with the defender that Saliba has become during his time at Emirates Stadium. The France hero feels his compatriot is one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League after just one season. Saliba finally made his long-awaited Arsenal debut last August.
Gunners supporters have Unai Emery to thank for the north London club signing Saliba from Saint-Etienne in 2019 for £27m. Arteta would overlook the 22-year-old’s potential upon the Bondy-born brute returning to the Emirates in 2020. He had spent one season back at ASSE.
Petit thinks Arsenal have one of the Premier League’s best defenders
Arteta initially kept Saliba at London Colney but would not use him once before returning to France with OGC Nice. A season at Marseille followed in 2021/22, as well, as question marks grew over the defender’s future at the Emirates. But Saliba has proven to be worth the wait.
Few players proved to be more essential to Arsenal’s surprise Premier League title assault in 22/23 than Saliba. With the Frenchman beside Gabriel Magalhaes, Arteta’s team threatened to break Manchester City’s reign. But his back injury in March saw their title dream collapse.
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Having Saliba fit for the start of this season was a huge relief for Arteta and Arsenal. He will be vital as the Gunners return to the Champions League for the first time since the 2016/17 season. And his form this term has been like the nine-cap France star has never been away.
How can Saliba be Arteta’s own Terry or Ferdinand at the Emirates?
Saliba offers Arteta poise in defence with the pace and height to challenge any striker in the Premier League. The 22-year-old is nearly the complete package and Petit believes he is one of the division’s best. Saliba is only lacking a goal threat before he hits an even higher level.
Petit stated, via But Football Club: “He is one of the best central defenders in England. He is a captain [and] he has a lot of serenity and personality on the pitch, reading the game and his management of depth.
“He relied a little on his power and speed. But, now, he has adapted to the demands of English football. With his physical dimension, he could bring more to attacking set pieces, like a John Terry or a Rio Ferdinand.
“On the restart, he has progressed a lot and he must not hesitate to take risks to reach an additional level, especially in the game put in place by Arsenal.”
Saliba has three goals and two assists in 38 career games for Arsenal. He fired home twice in 27 Premier League games last term, including a wonderful goal at AFC Bournemouth. Saliba scooped his attempt into the far, top corner from the edge of the area with his weaker foot.