Arsenal star Saliba leaves Desailly red-faced as Sevilla scare showcases quality

In pictures: Arsenal v Sevilla

Arsenal star William Saliba silenced Marcel Desailly with an excellent performance in the Champions League on Wednesday night. The centre-back was sensational against Sevilla, earning praise from former Gunners star Martin Keown.

Saliba has shone since breaking into Mikel Arteta’s first team, forming a strong partnership with Gabriel and also working well with Ben White at right-back. The 22-year-old has asserted himself as one of the best defenders in the Premier League over the past few years, and it would not be unreasonable to extend that praise to all centre-backs within Europe.

The former Marseille loanee has all the attributes of a player capable of being one of the best defenders in the world for many years to come. Thus, criticism from fellow Frenchman Desailly came as a shock earlier this week.

The ex-Chelsea star said: “I don’t believe his individual qualities to be above average. He’s at a very, very high level but not extraordinary.” However, Saliba silenced his doubters against Sevilla.

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The ex-Saint Etienne defender was sensational up against the La Liga outfit, helping his side to a clean sheet in Arsenal’s 2-0 victory to go top of the group. Leandro Trossard and Bukayo Saka were both on the scoresheet for Arteta’s side, though it was a tackle from Saliba that deserved as much credit as both goals.

With Arsenal 1-0 up, Sevilla star Adria Pedroso managed to break free down the left and began to bear down on goal. However, Saliba raced back alongside the 25-year-old and slid in to divert the ball back towards goalkeeper David Raya.

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The moment epitomised what the centre-back is capable of, and Keown was quick to highlight just how good the Arsenal No 2 is, despite Desailly’s critique. He explained: “I really can’t understand that [Desailly’s comments]. I think Saliba has the complete skill set. I think he’s right now one of the best defenders in Europe. He has everything you need. His pace is phenomenal. His power. He reads the situation really well.

“We love having him at Arsenal because he’s physical and has everything you need. He has everything you need. He’s aggressive and I think he has everything he needs. I am really surprised by that comment.” It remains to be seen whether Saliba ever outrightly responds to Desailly’s comments or whether he will let his consistently top-level performances do the talking at the Emirates Stadium.

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