Arsenal loanee William Saliba has refused to rule out a return to Marseille after scooping Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Year award.
The Gunners’ decision to loan Saliba to Marseille at the start of the season has been a topic of conversation for quite some time, but it has peaked in recent weeks with Arsenal struggling at centre-back. Arsenal go into their penultimate Premier League game of the season against Newcastle without Rob Holding due to suspension, while Gabriel is a doubt with a thigh injury.
All the while, Arsenal’s best centre-back this season has been playing for Marseille in France, helping Les Phocéens challenge for Champions League football – and with one game left to play in Ligue 1, they need just one point to secure that. Saliba will not be available for Marseille’s final game of the season, against Strasbourg, due to suspension for an accumulation of yellow cards – and that could be his French spell over.
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However, Saliba hasn’t ruled out returning to Marseille next season, telling reporters: “We’ll see, only time will tell.”
He added: “Since the first match [with Marseille], I have been very well received.
“I don’t regret for a minute coming here, I thank all the supporters, the staff, and my teammates.”
Just last week, Marseille manager Jorge Sampaoli said of Saliba: “I hope that there is a possibility for us to keep a player like him, who knows the team.
“I don’t know if it depends on OM, William or Arsenal, I don’t know the possibilities in this case.”
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Whether Saliba remains in Marseille or not, fans of the French club will have fond memories of his year in Ligue 1, as will those who have followed the top flight across the campaign. The 21-year-old played 36 times for Marseille across the Ligue 1 campaign, helping them to keep 14 clean sheets. He was rewarded for his performances by winning Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Year award, beating the likes of Nuno Mendes, Khephren Thuram, Castello Lukeba and Arnaud Kalimuendo.
Also across the Ligue 1 campaign, Saliba triggered more successful offside traps than any plyer in the French top flight (31) – Virgil van Dijk leads the way in the Premier League with 44, alongside teammate Joel Matip. The highest ranking Arsenal player is Gabriel on 17.
Another hallmark of Van Dijk’s colossal presence in Liverpool’s back four is his near-perfect tackling. He famously completed his first full season without being dribbled past by an opponent in either the Premier League or Champions League.
Virgil van Dijk has completed an entire Premier League season without being successfully dribbled past by a single opponent.
Liverpool’s very own brick wall. 🧱 pic.twitter.com/xsQlE1NwRH
— Squawka (@Squawka) May 12, 2019
In 2018/19, Van Dijk had the best true tackle success rate of any of the 1,212 players to attempt 40+ tackles in a top-five European division (84.4%). In 2021/22, William Saliba is top of this 1,207-player list with 82.6%.
To top it all off, the Arsenal loanee has also had more touches, played more passes into the opposition half and made more ball recoveries in the defensive third than any other player in the division.