Mikel Arteta sent William Saliba on loan to Nice earlier this month, much to the annoyance of Arsenal supporters.
The young French defender hasn’t played a single minute of senior football for us and many fans felt it was really unfair. However, Arteta firmly believed he wasn’t ready and a loan move was the best option.
Saliba has been a regular for Nice since joining them. Les Aiglons failed to win each of their first three games with the Arsenal youngster at the back, but the teenager helped them get their first victory in five weeks this weekend.
Youcef Atal’s 49th-minute strike was enough for Nice to get the win but it was Saliba who stole all the plaudits. The Frenchman was rock solid at the back, so much so that L’Equipe raved about him in their post-match review.
The quote from the French newspaper read: “He guides and instructs the defence, gives impression he’s been there a long time. He’s just arrived but has already shown he’s the boss of the defence.”
That’s incredible praise for someone so young. Nice hadn’t won a game since mid-December. They had conceded 12 goals in their last five fixtures before the start of the game against Lens, but Saliba’s immense display helped them keep a clean sheet on Saturday.
Saliba was brilliant against Lens
The former Saint-Etienne man made five clearances, blocked one shot and made an interception. Each of his five long passes reached its target and he maintained a stunning overall passing accuracy of 90% as well. (SofaScore)
He won two of his three attempted aerial duels, committed just one foul all game and misplaced just five of his 48 passes. That is a stunning return for a teenager making just his fourth start of the season. (SofaScore)
Arteta would’ve kept on eye on Saliba’s performance over the weekend. The Gunners boss will be without at least two more defenders in the summer, and if the Frenchman can continue to impress, he will certainly be a part of Arsenal’s plans for next season.