Is William Saliba the best defender in the Premier League?

Saliba is entering his second full season with Arsenal since joining from Olympique Marseille in 2022. Since arriving, he has rejuvenated the back line for Mikel Arteta’s side that conceded just 43 goals during the 2022/23 campaign, the third least in the league. The defender is currently at four clean sheets in eight matches after an exceptional performance against Manchester City on Sunday. However, does this make him worthy of the best defender in the league? 

The stats tell it all 

If we are talking fantasy, Saliba is one of the top-rated defenders in the league. On Premier League Fantasy, he has totaled 20 points in just the last four matches after he recorded four blocks with five clearances and three clean sheets. Saliba also kept Erling Haaland in his back pocket, limiting the all-time single season Premier League goal scorer to just no shots for the first time since 5 February against Tottenham.  

He has also helped the team concede just six goals in eight Premier League games, the lowest thus far with a league leading four clean sheets. He finished last season with an average of three clearances per game and is now up to two per match this season, picking up from where he left off last season.  

His absence in the lineup is staggering 

When Saliba does not play, there is an immediate change to the defensive line. Last season, Saliba suffered a back injury that ruled him out for the last 10 matches of the 2022/23 season. His loss was extremely costly for Arsenal, to the point that it lost them a chance to get a Premier League title for the first time since 2004. With Saliba, Arsenal conceded just 17 goals during the first 22 games of the season.  

Without him, the team conceded 18 goals in the span of 10 games. This included the 3-3 draw with Southampton and an embarrassing 4-1 loss to Manchester City that ultimately killed their title hopes. Currently tied for first, Saliba will try again to lead the team to a title, but will need to prevent a long-term injury to do so. 

Taking part in the next generation of footballers 

Saliba has already become a leader and an asset to Arsenal, all at the age of 22. He joined the team as a 21-year-old from Ligue 1 side Olympique Marseille, and has fully lived up to his expectations. He had already been a regular starter in Ligue 1 at just the age of 17 with St. Etienne. With Marseille, he was named Ligue 1 young player of the year, while also making the team of the year the same season in 20201/22.  

This also led to his first call up to the France national team in 2022, which later led to a trip to the World Cup and a second-place finish. Despite playing only 27 minutes of at the last World Cup, Saliba is set to take over as the top center back for France as he is just beginning his legacy as one of the best defenders in the world. He will surely play a crucial role for country at next summer’s European Championship.  

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