"He's the boss" - Arsenal star William Saliba salutes Liverpool rival with 'aura' around him

William Saliba joined Arsenal in 2019
William Saliba joined Arsenal in 2019

Arsenal defender William Saliba has said that he's starting to build an 'aura' similar to that of Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk. The Frenchman also called himself one of the three best defenders in the Premier League right now.

The Gunners have become a force to be reckoned with in the last two years. While they have been trophyless since 2020, the north London outfit have become serious title contenders in the last couple of seasons.

Most of the credit behind this unforeseen success is given to young attackers, including Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, and Gabriel Martinelli. However, the midfield and defense are also areas where they have improved a lot.

Mikel Arteta's reliance on Gabriel Magalhaes and Saliba has proved to be instrumental. The latter signed from Saint-Etienne in 2019 for a reported £27 million transfer fee. While he was sent on loan to France on two occasions, his resurgence within the Arsenal side since arriving in 2021 has been remarkable.

Saliba recently said that he has started feeling that attackers fear him the same way they fear Liverpool's Van Dijk. Here's what he said while speaking to L'Equipe:

"I’m not the guy who talks a lot, but I’m talking more and more. ‘I’m making progress in that regard. In defense at Arsenal, I’m one of the leaders. (Virgil) Van Dijk has an aura, for example. He’s the boss, he commands everything. You can feel that he scares the attackers. But I’m starting to feel the same way."
"I’m starting to see that the attackers are feeling fear. Sometimes, when the players are in your zone, they don’t have fun. And when there’s a one-on-one and the player is going to retreat, bring the ball out, run away from the duel, it’s nice."

Saliba added that he's among the top three defenders in the Premier League after Arsenal conceded the fewest goals in the league last season (29):

"I think I am in the top three [defenders in the league]. We finished with the best defence. I watch a lot of matches. I am a very humble person but last season, just like this season, I am in the top three defenders."
"I need to continue to work to go even higher […] in terms of concentration, I am a lot better. Before, I could play a top match but in one phase of play, I slept a bit. That is no longer the case. I am always on alert."

The Gunners finished second in the Premier League for the second consecutive time last season, behind Manchester City both times.

Arsenal conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League

The Gunners conceded the fewest goals last season (29) and also kept the most clean sheets (18). This reiterates their defensive robustness.

Furthermore, they also scored a whopping 91 goals in 38 games, with only Manchester City scoring more goals (96). Interestingly, Arteta's men also won more games than 'The Invincibles' Arsenal squad of 2003-04.

The Invincibles had won 26 games and drawn 12 games. The Gunners, last season, won 28 games, more than any other team, but still fell short of winning their first Premier League title in over two decades.

They lost the title by five points in the 2022-23 season despite leading the table for 248 days. They took the race to the final day last season but lost by two points.

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