William Saliba didn’t commit a single foul from an attempted tackle in Ligue 1 this season, giving him a unique record among Europe’s top five leagues.
According to Opta data compiled by Squawka’s Jake Entwistle, William Saliba is the only outfield player on record in Europe’s top-five leagues to play more than 900 minutes without committing a single foul from an attempted tackle.
To clarify, for those confused, this doesn’t mean Saliba didn’t commit any fouls at all. Per WhoScored, he made two fouls in his 991 minutes of Ligue 1 action this season. However, neither came from attempted tackles.
There are obviously other ways you can give away free-kicks: Cynical pull-backs, handball, holding a player away from the play on a set-piece, and so on. This stat was purely to judge Saliba’s quality when it comes to tackling.
Entwistle also put together a graph (below) showing various players “true tackle success rate”. This is calculated by their number of successful tackles, divided by their [tackles made + times dribbled past + fouls conceded from tackle attempts].
Does whatever a spider can
Making tackles all the time
Catches wingers just like flies
Look out, here comes the Spider-Wan 🕸 pic.twitter.com/l4jSLg37Ls
— Jake Entwistle (@JakeEntwistle) May 3, 2020
Saliba’s rate is only narrowly below 80%, one of the best in Europe. He’s middle of the pack in terms of his number of tackles per 90 minutes, but he clearly picks his moments well.
Ideally, that’s what you want. You may notice Virgil van Dijk in a similar position on the graph.
There’s plenty more to defending than this one stat. Saliba’s interception and aerial duel figures are also good, but then you have to take into account the aspects more difficult to quantify. Positioning and awareness are the two big ones.
So these are encouraging signs, let’s just not get ahead of ourselves.