The summer signing of Nicolas Pepe, Gabriel Martinelli, Kieran Tierney, David Luiz, Dani Ceballos (loan) and William Saliba surely had Arsenal fans thinking they “won” the summer transfer window.
Quite frankly, Arsenal are usually the “conservative” buyers in any window and seeing them cough out more than £100m in a single window was honestly enough reason for fans and the management to keep a positive head ahead of the season.
12 games later and after 17 goals conceded in the league (Skysports), surely the previously mentioned narrative has turned out to be the opposite as the summer signings have done little to help an Arsenal side that have struggled both on and off the pitch.
For Emery and his team, the heart of defence has been the highlight of the Gunners’ faltering season – with David Luiz and Sokratis being the scapegoats in that regard.
A series of bad results for Arsenal has seen Emery under pressure in recent weeks, and with Mauricio Pochettino being the latest victim of a bad plunge, Emery might perhaps have one eye over his shoulder as it stands.
The reports remain that the Gunners hierarchy are ready to back the Spaniard till the end of the season where they can dip into the transfer market once more.
After spending £72m for Nicolas Pepe’s services over the summer, it’s widely expected that Arsenal would now turn their attention to the department that has let them down the most – the defence – with a major focus on the central defenders.
Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konate and Merih Demiral are among the centre-back options that have been linked to the Gunners in the past few weeks, and there is all likelihood that the North London side would go all out to secure at least one of these names.
However, Emery (or whoever) is in charge at the time might already have his best signing on his hands in 18-year-old William Saliba.
Arsenal completed something of a coup this summer when they won the race for the £27m signature of St-Etienne’s teenage centre-back William Saliba.
Still just 18, Saliba is spending the season back on loan at St-Etienne, where his performances have reportedly alerted Real Madrid.
His influence for St-Etienne in 2019 highlights why Arsenal were desperate to sign him even if he meant a season-long loan back to France as part of the deal.
As per Football.London, Saliba has played 13 league games for St Etienne in 2019 and they have won 11 of those matches. It has resulted in an impressive 33 points from 39 available when he has been on the pitch.
St-Etienne have played league matches in 2019 without Saliba starting, winning just five of those – meaning their win rate drops to 26.3%.
In those games, they have conceded 28 goals at an average of 1.47 per game.
Of course, the French league is tactically and physically different from the Premier League but it’s easy to see that the youngster would thrive in an Arsenal side that needs some sort of stability at the back right now.
Moving further, Saliba has averaged 1.8 tackles and 1.6 interceptions for St Etienne this season (Whoscored), which is better than David Luiz has managed at 0.7 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per 90 so far (Whoscored).
Luiz has also looked nervous on many occasions and it’s evident in his 0.8 fouls per 90 minutes (Whoscored) compared to a calmer and more collected Saliba with a far lesser foul ratio of 0.2 fouls per 90 minutes (Whoscored).
However, a major worry for Arsenal remains in the form of Saliba’s fitness issues. The 18-year-old already missed the start of the season due to injury and after only 541 minutes (Transfermarkt) of action, he’s currently sidelined once again with a broken metatarsal that would see him out of action till at least next year.
Regardless of all that, Saliba remains a rare gem and could be one part of the piece to restore some order back into the Gunners’ back-line. With his services secured already, the French defender could be Arsenal’s most important “signing” when he returns to Arsenal as a full-time player, come the end of the season.