Having turned 20 earlier this month, William Saliba has been producing mature displays in the centre of the Nice defence, according to Amy Lawrence of The Athletic.
Lawrence has a detailed look at Nice's superb sequence of results this calendar year which is underpinned by the near ever-present Saliba, who has quickly emerged as a calm influence on their back four.
Alongside 21-year-old Jean-Clair Todibo (on-loan from Barcelona himself), Nice coach Adrian Ursea has found a pair of talented youngsters who have grasped the opportunity for more first-team minutes and thrived.
“We can’t forget where we have come from,” says Ursea. “We were in an extremely difficult situation. We see other clubs who were better than us getting dragged into a relegation fight, with terrible pressure. It’s something that we no longer have.”
In Lawrence's write-up, it's indicated that Nice is so delighted with Saliba's progress that they put together a statistical report to highlight his impact in the 2020-21 top-flight season, and it demonstrates the following:
📈 William Saliba: 2020-21 metrics
- 🥇 Best in the Nice squad for aerial duels
- 🔝 Top for touches of the ball
- 🥾 Completed the most passes out of any Nice player
- 🥈 Second-best for interceptions
- 😳 Since returning to France, no opponent has dribbled past him
- 📊 Ranks inside the top five (across the whole league) for ball recoveries
Nice is unbeaten in their last Ligue 1 matches (winning four of those), a sequence that has lifted Ursea's men to 9th in the standings and makes them THE form team in the division.
Saliba is developing his reputation as a cultured centre-back who likes to bring the ball out of defence and move it forward, while his positional play and reading of dangerous in-game situations is always improving.
We wrote up our own mini progress report isolating key aspects of Saliba's performances in his first few outings for the Ligue 1 side but plenty of water has flown under the bridge since.
Arsenal will be determined to integrate Saliba into the first-team picture in 2021-22, mostly because of his status as a highly promising right-sided central defender, but also because of the massive outlay that has been invested in the tall Frenchman. Saliba is one of the priciest teenagers in European transfer history.
🏦 All-time most expensive players aged 18 or younger:— Futaa.com (@Futaacom) March 3, 2021
🇧🇷 Vinícius - €45m
🇧🇷 Rodrygo - €45m
🇵🇹 F. Silva - €40m
🏴 L. Shaw - €37.5m
🏴 W. Rooney - €37m
🇵🇹 R. Sanches - €35m
🇮🇹 A. Bastoni - €31.1m
🇮🇹 A. Cassano - €31m
🇧🇷 Reinier - €30m
🇫🇷 W. Saliba - €30m pic.twitter.com/tMcXbWYG3E
Decision time on Saliba's future with Arsenal is fast approaching and there's a vacancy in the heart of Arsenal's defence if he wants it in the long term. Mikel Arteta will no doubt be impressed by the strides that William Saliba has made and the maturity and confidence he has shown in a highly competitive league.
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