William Saliba gave an improved individual performance against Marseille on Wednesday night, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a second consecutive defeat.
Prior to the game against Marseille, we reported on William Saliba in his first defeat of the campaign, as Saint-Etienne lost 3-1 to Metz. The centre-back didn’t have a good game on that occasion, and he took his share of the blame for it.
Things weren’t going to get any easier for the team on Wednesday, as Saint-Etienne faced Marseille – sitting in second place in Ligue 1. Though the game did result in another defeat, Saliba showed improvement on an individual level.
Saint-Etienne 0-2 Marseille
After the shocking performance Saint-Etienne put up against Metz on Sunday, the team had to bounce back against Olympique de Marseille at home.
To try and do so, Claude Puel went back to the 3-4-3, which meant that William Saliba once again played alongside both Loïc Perrin and Wesley Fofana. He was either positioned as the central defender or on the left side – as he swapped a lot with Perrin.
From the first minute, Saliba seemed much more into it, along with his teammates from the defensive line. Right at the beginning, he defended brilliantly against Radonjic, dealing with some pressure to pass the ball to Fofana. However, things quickly went south.
In the 7th minute, Marseille scored on their first chance thanks to Dimitri Payet, whose individual qualities were the catalyst of the goal.
After Saint-Etienne cleared the ball badly, the number 10 came into the box, made a fool of M’Vila with his dribbling and then found the back of the net, after putting his head up and seeing that Ruffier was too far from his line.
It is difficult – if not impossible – to blame Saliba for that goal as neither the midfielder nor the goalkeeper did well.
For the remainder of the second half, Marseille did not make any further clear-cut chances. Saliba did his job very well, easily defending against Benedetto.
In the 19th minute, the centre-forward received a good ball in behind the Saint-Etienne defensive line but Saliba quickly intervened, reading the game perfectly in a brilliant defensive move. He ended up recovering the ball which allowed his team to play out from the back.
By the end of the first half, Saliba also showed his physical capacity to shield the ball. He held off a challenge from Payet, performing well against such a tough opponent. Then, he laid it off to Perrin, allowing everyone to breathe for a bit.
Saliba also tried to bring some sort of energy and desire to go forward. He recovered the ball in midfield and passed it to M’Vila, who was then fouled. A few minutes later, he found an amazing pass angle for Denis Bouanga, who managed to disrupt Marseille’s defence. It was not enough, though.
Saint-Etienne were, once again, behind at half-time. However, it was a better showing than on Sunday – especially defensively speaking. The back three functioned well, Saliba displayed much more serenity and solidity. He was back to his usual self.
The second half was not a good demonstration of football, from either of the two sides.
Even though they were losing, Saint-Etienne never showed much urgency in their game. Marseille, meanwhile, never really tried to do anything.
Saint-Etienne dominated the final 45 minutes but never created a chance of note. It was simply boring. Saliba had a few good moments as he blocked the ball a few times and did some good covering. Then again, he didn’t have much to do.
In the end, Marseille was the more clinical side. In the 84th minute, they pressed Saint-Etienne’s midfield for the first time, Aholou lost the ball, he did not react quickly enough to recover the ball – complaining at the referee instead.
Then everyone showed an extreme level of passivity. Payet passed the ball to Rongier who then found Radonjic in the box. He finished the job and secured the win for his team. No one reacted, and conceding such a goal was almost pathetic.
With this latest defeat, worries are starting to appear among Saint-Etienne’s ranks as the relegation zone keeps getting closer. The season is a long and dreadful one and the only lights in it are William Saliba, Wesley Fofana and Denis Bouanga.
The two young centre-backs are the only players to show some talents and willingness. Just like Denis Bouanga. But the three of them are too lonely, and they cannot save their team every time.
We’ll conclude with some statistics regarding Saliba’s performance. He won two of his four duels, touched the ball 68 times, lost it 14 times, made two interceptions, attempted 52 passes and had a pass completion rate of 79%.