Arsenal: Arteta admits Tierney might miss rest of season
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Arsenal may already have their own Virgil van Dijk – although he is not currently playing for Mikel Arteta’s side at the moment. William Saliba has impressed since joining Nice on loan in the January transfer window – and an encouraging stat has emerged showing why he could be the Gunners’ answer to Liverpool colossus Van Dijk next season.
Saliba has played 13 Ligue 1 games at the heart of Nice’s defence – and in that time not one opponent has managed to dribble past the 20-year-old.
That’s a run of more than 1170 minutes, with Saliba having played every minute of the league games he has started for his temporary club.
It’s a record reminiscent of Van Dijk’s incredible run, when the Reds defender went 50 Premier League games without being beaten on the ground – including the entirety of the 2018-19 season – before Arsenal winger Nicolas Pepe finally got the better of him early in the following campaign.
Saliba has some way to go before he can match Van Dijk’s achievement, but the youngster’s impressive stats don’t end there, with the Gunners defender also in Ligue 1’s top five for ball receoveries since he arrived at Nice on January 6.
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He has won 99 balls back from opposing players’ feet – placing him only behind Anthony Caci (Strasbourg, 113), Bruno Ecuele Manga (Dijon, 112) and Ngonda Muzinga (Dijon, 106), according to Nice’s official website.
That’s despite the club languishing in 10th place in Ligue 1 – with Arsenal struggling in the corresponding position in the Premier League.
Saliba is showing qualities the Gunners could have done with in their 3-0 defeat to Liverpool at the weekend, which left them stranded 10 points behind the top four.
And Mikel Arteta will surely be weighing up whether to bring the centre-half back into his squad for next season as the manager looks to kick on from what has been a largely underwhelming transitional campaign.
Saliba was sent on loan to Nice with Arsenal’s coaching staff judging that he needed more first-team football before being ready for the rigours of the English top flight.
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His exlcusion from the first-team picture at the Emirates left some fans wondering whether they were ever going to see the the £27m signing from Saint-Etienne in action for the Gunners.
But former Arsenal right-back Bacary Sagna insisted the defender’s move was “clever” and not a punishment.
“Being good in France is totally different to proving himself in the Premier League,” Sagna told Goal.
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“I still have trust in him, I think he is a good player and he can adapt to Arsenal because I’ve seen him play many times.
“He is doing well at Nice and has probably been their best player. At that age you need to be playing. He has big potential and in France people know it.
“Sending him away is not a bad thing, it’s not a punishment. To me it’s clever to send him [on loan] rather than him being on the bench or not even being in the squad.”
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