William Saliba played 90 minutes in a Saint-Etienne performance where neither the player nor the team were at their best, facing Oleksandria on Thursday.

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 13: William Saliba of Arsenal during a training session at London Colney on September 13, 2019 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
ST ALBANS, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 13: William Saliba of Arsenal during a training session at London Colney on September 13, 2019, in St Albans, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

After he starred against Bordeaux at the weekend, Saliba showed some room for improvement in the midweek Europa League clash. We spoke to Chloe Gallot of Ultimo Diez for a report on his latest performance.

Saint-Etienne 1-1 Oleksandria

If we could sum up St-Etienne’s game against Ukrainian side FC Oleksandriya in one word, we could easily pick “sloppy”.

After a good start and an opening goal coming after 8 minutes, St-Etienne’s 4-4-2 formation quickly fell into a routine and never really managed to hurt a poor Oleksandriya side.

In spite of their lack of quality, Oleksandriya managed to equalise thanks to an own goal from Gabriel Silva in the 14th minute.

That goal was the result of several mistakes: The midfield did not really follow Miroshnichenko down the left side who managed to find a space to pass the ball to Tretyakov. He then had plenty of space to advance towards the box as Debuchy was not positioned correctly and was too slow for his opponent.

Kolodziejczak made a run and tried to block the ball but the Ukrainian managed to produce a clean cross, Silva tried to clear it but fooled his own goalkeeper. During the whole process, Saliba was unfortunately nowhere to be seen, he was very late back as St-Etienne was playing fairly high.

We can certainly say that the goal was the result of several individual mistakes in addition to a lack of concentration.

Later on, even if the Ukrainians were rarely threatening, the sloppiness of the French team showed again. In the 24th minute, Saliba – who is always taking risks with the ball – almost gave it away, which was very unusual from him.

In the 29th minute, he got caught by Kovalets who managed to challenge him physically. Generally, that element was a real problem for both centre-backs which again was fairly unusual.

The first-half was an odd one: St-Etienne’s opponents were not very good, yet they managed to trouble the home side, who were clearly not in the right place mentally-speaking. Saliba clearly didn’t have his best night, but that’s to be excepted with an 18-year-old player, in spite of his great ability.

Saint-Etienne's French defender William Saliba gestures during the French L1 football match between Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne (ASSE) on October 20, 2019, at the Matmut Atlantique stadium in Bordeaux, southwestern France. (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP / Getty Images)
Saint-Etienne’s French defender William Saliba gestures during the French L1 football match between Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne (ASSE) on October 20, 2019, at the Matmut Atlantique stadium in Bordeaux, southwestern France. (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP / Getty Images)

The second-half was better for the back-four of St-Etienne. In the 49th minute, W. Saliba perfectly covered his opponent in the box, and he managed to get the ball back.

In the 60th, he committed a tactical foul giving a free-kick to the Ukrainians who were just passed midfield. It resulted in nothing. In the 68th minute, the youngster perfectly cleared the ball in front of the goal line, denying Oleksandriya the lead. It was their last real opportunity of the game. Afterwards, both centrebacks did not have much to do.

In the 93rd minute, however, Saliba took charge of what was the last offensive opportunity. He made a run down the right side with the ball, crossed it perfectly for Youssouf whose shot was saved by the goalkeeper in one final effort.

In the end, we can safely say that St-Etienne should’ve done better. So could Saliba, who himself said to the press after the game “we were asleep during the first-half”.

The young defender did not have a great evening. Yet, he probably learned a lot from it, as such performances are also important to improve.

It was not a bad evening from him, as such, it just showed that he is still young and still has to gain experience in order to get even better. There is still some margin for improvement despite his precocity and natural talent.

Many thanks to Chloe Gallot of Ultimo Diez for the update.

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Arsenal fan since a young age, now a season ticket holder who enjoys writing, tweeting and making videos about the Gunners.