William Saliba made his comeback to the Saint-Etienne team against AS Monaco in the French Cup on Tuesday night, keeping a clean sheet.
Since November 24th, with Saliba out due to injury, Saint-Etienne hadn’t kept a single clean sheet against Ligue 1 opposition. They did win one match 3-0 in the cup this month, but it was against third-division side Bastia-Borgo.
With Saliba back in the team again, they finally found their defensive stability, winning 1-0 against Monaco. Saint-Etienne journalist Chloe Gallot of Ultimo Diez gave us a report on the match.
Chloe’s Player Report for Saliba vs Monaco
William Saliba finally made his comeback for St-Etienne after recovering from a foot injury against the same opponents in early November. And the least we can say is that Saint-Etienne and Claude Puel badly missed him.
Indeed, after his injury, the team collapsed and ended December fairly badly – without much defensive strength nor anything else, to be fair. Since his injury, they hadn’t kept a single clean sheet against a professional side.
Tonight, that changed after securing qualification to the next round with a 1-0 victory. Things were definitely different in the Coupe de France match, as Saint-Etienne appeared to have some sort of defensive cohesion for the first time since November.
For the round-of-16 game away to Monaco, the young defender was paired with Wesley Fofana, the other rising star of the club.
In spite of their age and seemingly little playing time together in Ligue 1, the two youngsters already know each other very well after playing a lot together with the Saint-Etienne youth teams.
It was yet again clearly obvious on the pitch as they trust each other extremely well. Besides that, Saliba came back like he left: in imperial fashion.
The future Arsenal centre-back was once again impressive, especially after being out for a while. His composure, his reading of the game, his technical abilities and so on were extremely precious to Saint-Etienne. As always, the kid showed all of his capacities to defend well, without doubts or showing any fear.
Saliba making Ben Yedder dance:
Sur une salsa, William Saliba et sa partenaire, Wissam Ben Yedder. pic.twitter.com/iPT2cNvsCO
— Tac (@EtienneShkPnk) January 28, 2020
Saliba’s fearlessness was notable during the second half of the game, during which Monaco did everything they could to equalise.
During those last 45 minutes, both Saliba and Fofana put on a show to make sure ASSE would secure that precious victory. Many times they made precious interventions, tackles and key challenges.
Ben Yedder barely existed against Saliba, just like in November. But if Saliba was outstanding defensively-speaking, he also showed his capacity to launch attacks one again.
In the last few minutes of the game, he did an amazing pass to Denis Bouanga – pretty much quarter-back style – who was then denied by Monaco’s goalkeeper. But the pass was gorgeous and it’s obvious he has the capacity to do it again.
In the end, to show such a good level for Saliba’s first game back is ridiculous, and it proves once again the kid is talented. Very talented. The fans know it as they rightly elected him man-of-the-match with at least 50% of the votes.
Saliba Post-Match Interview
Saliba on the game: “We were lucky to take the lead in the first half. Then we played against a very good Monaco side, they had many chances but we managed to be very strong defensively speaking. We could’ve potentially scored a second goal, but tonight we will keep in mind the victory and it is a deserved one.”
On his comeback, and whether there’s nothing more satisfying than a clean sheet: “[With a big smile] Oh yes, that’s certain, to me it is as if I had scored a goal. Clean sheets are important so we are going to try to have as many as possible. Above all, we will try not to lose.”
On his partnership with Wesley Fofana: “[Again with a big smile] Oh yeah with Wesley… I’ve been playing with him since the under 16s. We obviously know each other extremely well. Today it was a real pleasure to play alongside him, as centre-backs. We need to continue working but it is very satisfying and encouraging for the Acadamy”.
On his near-assist for Denis Bouanga late on: “Oh well, Denis does not want my stats to move forward. But it is no big deal, I will end up getting that assist [laughing]”.