William Saliba starred in a third consecutive league win for Saint-Etienne, keeping another clean sheet with the side after returning from injury.
Saliba has now played 90 minutes in three consecutive matches, since returning from injury in late September. His team have only conceded one goal to Wolfsburg in those games, beating Ligue 1 high-flyers Bordeaux and Lyon 1-0.
Bordeaux 0-1 Saint-Etienne
When William Saliba is playing, it sometimes is difficult to remember that he is only 18 years old. That was how it felt when watching him against FC Girondins de Bordeaux this Sunday. The kid seemed invincible.
His usual composure and ability to read the game were incredibly important in a game where his team struggled against a fairly good Bordeaux side that clearly wanted to show some good football to its supporters.
For the first game after the international break, which involved a few good training sessions under Claude Puel, Saliba started the game on the left side of a back three alongside club captain Loïc Perrin and Wesley Fofana – with whom he played alongside at U19 level.
The day started fairly well for his team, but after 20 minutes Bordeaux started to dominate. Yet, they didn’t really pose a threat for a while.
As a result, Saliba’s first half was fairly calm. He did his job properly, showing his usual qualities. He did not have much responsibility, which was the only problem with having him in that position, as we cannot really see him at his best.
For Saliba, the second half was completely different as Perrin came off for T. Kolodziejczak. The youngster moved to the centre of the back three, taking charge of the trio, having to organise it and he did it brilliantly. Even if it was the first time that he had to do that without the veteran of St-Etienne’s defensive line.
The pressure was no problem for him, as usual, and he kept showing how comfortable on the ball he can be. As Bordeaux were even more threatening in the second half whilst ASSE’s midfield and attack had an off-day, the defence, as well as the goalkeeper, had plenty of work to do.
In the 69th minute, thanks to a perfectly aligned back three, the first goal of the game scored by Bordeaux was disallowed. After that, Sousa’s side kept pressing and pressing. Saliba and the rest of the defence did their best to block everything, to resist as the home side was not slowing down. After Cabaye came on for ASSE in the 77th, the away side started to look a tad better but Saliba kept showing that he was not messing around.
In the 82nd minute, Saliba stole the ball from Yacine Adli’s feet at the edge of his own box and tried to launch an attack. It did not produce anything big however it showed how much the young player loves going forward, showing how composed he can be on the ball.
Then, in the 86th minute, Saliba stole the show again after Briand went down the right-hand side, going past Fofana to face the youngster in the box. He didn’t lose control as he stayed grounded, made sure not to commit a foul. Once he had recovered the ball, his team managed to start building up from the back nicely.
William Saliba, 18 years of age, defending like a seasoned veteran and bodying opponents for fun. What a don. pic.twitter.com/v9U9fTz037
— Arsenalian (@Arsenalian6) October 20, 2019
That moment showed how great the centre back can be. If his team ended up winning the game it was partly thanks to him and his great defensive performance.
On a statistical point-off view, his day was far from being disastrous as well as he completed 41 passes (accuracy of 83%), won one tackle, made three interceptions, two clearances and won three aerial duels.
For his second start of the season in Ligue 1, William Saliba delivered another great performance. In spite of his young age, he shows the qualities of a true leader, he is full of talent. His future can only be great.