·21 September 2023
·21 September 2023
It's been a pretty good few days or so for Arsenal. After all, they've been able to do a couple of things they hadn't been able to manage for quite some time. First, they travelled up to Goodison Park and beat Everton in the Premier League for the first time in six years. Then they went and thumped PSV Eindhoven 4-0 in their first Champions League game since 2017.
The last game they played in the competition, six years ago against Bayern Munich, contained a team coached by Arsène Wenger with the likes of Shkodran Mustafi, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud. This time around, however, Mikel Arteta has a whole host of young and exciting players to pick from with the world seemingly at their feet.
The Gunners got off to the perfect start on match day one in Group B as Bukayo Saka opened the scoring after just eight minutes, finishing smarlty after Martin Odergaard's shot was spilt by goalkeeper Walter Benítez. Only 12 minutes later, Leandro Trossard has doubled the lead with a fine finish, before Gabriel Jesus blasted home another before halftime. Arsenal controlled things throughout and captain Odergaard put the cherry on top with his long-distance second-half strike which made it four goals to the good.
Speaking after the game to TNT Sports, manager Arteta seemed delighted with his team and their ability to dominate proceedings in both an attacking and a defensive sense. But he did suggest that it wasn't necessarily a perfect display as he saw areas in which the team could improve, saying:
"We enjoyed it. From the first minute, we went for it. We were really good in both boxes, and in the Champions League when you are really good in both boxes you have a chance. In between the boxes there are things to improve, but inside the boxes we were phenomenal."
The Arsenal team is characterised by its young talent with key men such as Odegaard, Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah, and Declan Rice all either 24 or younger. And at the heart of that is talented French defender William Saliba. Despite having played in both the Europa League and the Europa Conference League with the likes of Marseille and Saint-Etienne, this was the 22-year-old's debut in the Champions League and it's safe to say he impressed.
One moment in particular really caught the eye as he brought the ball down inside his own half. PSV attacker Noa Lang chased him down with great intensity, forcing Saliba to run towards his own goal. Remaining typically cool, though, the centre-back spun around before showing off some quick feet to carry the ball away from even more pressure and then setting Arsenal off on a counterattack. The skill was so sublime, that you can actually hear the home crowd react in unison with an audible cheer, followed by loud applause.
It seems as though they weren't the only ones to be left impressed though as former striker and TV pundit Ian Wright took to Twitter to praise the defender's performance. In all caps, he wrote: "WILLIAM SALIBA!!!!!!!!!!!!". With his speed, strength, composure and reading of the game – all while still only 22 years old – it really does feel as though Saliba is a cheat code.
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