EPL

Arteta urges Saliba 'to make his own career' amid Van Dijk comparisons

By Sports Desk October 07, 2022

Arsenal are hugely impressed with William Saliba, but Mikel Arteta has stayed away from comparing the youngster to Virgil van Dijk.

Saliba has been fantastic for Arsenal this season, after finally getting his chance following loan spells at Saint-Etienne, Nice and Marseille.

The 21-year-old signed for Arsenal from Saint-Etienne back in 2019, but spent the next season back on loan at the French club.

However, Arteta did not call on the centre-back in the 2020-21 season, and Saliba subsequently left for Nice before spending last season on loan at Marseille.

This time around Arsenal kept hold of Saliba despite Marseille's interest and have been rewarded by some superb displays, with the France international starting all eight Premier League matches.

His form has seen him compared with Liverpool defender Van Dijk, though ahead of the meeting between the Gunners and the Reds, Arteta urged Saliba to "make his own career."

The Arsenal manager told reporters: "I think the way he has established himself, the composure and leadership that he's shown on the pitch – it's done in a very natural way without any flashlights, just being himself.

"Being very quiet but at the same time, very confident."

On the Van Dijk comparisons, Arteta said: "Wow, that's a big call. We're very happy with where he is at the moment.

"He's Saliba: he's no one else, and he needs to make his own career."

How do Saliba and Van Dijk stack up?

Arteta may have strayed away from comparing the players, but the data throws up some interesting head-to-head records.

While Van Dijk has struggled to hit his best form in an underperforming Liverpool team, Saliba has helped Arsenal keep three clean sheets this season, which ranks him joint-top in terms of defenders in the Premier League.

He has made 12 headed clearances, one more than Van Dijk, though both are way behind the league-leading defender in that regard (Joachim Andersen - 36). Saliba has also made 25 clearances to Van Dijk's 23.

Despite Van Dijk's struggles, he nevertheless boasts a better tackle success rate (60 per cent to 46.2) and duel success rate (72.1 to 56.3) than Saliba, while the Netherlands international has also won 25 of hs 32 aerial duels, compared to Saliba succeeding in eight of his 17.

Saliba's ability on the ball has also drawn comparisons to Van Dijk. He is able to find his team-mates with long passes, though Arteta's preferred style of play means Saliba has only attempted 32 long passes in the league.

An impressive 22 (69 per cent) of these have been successful, which betters the success rate managed by Van Dijk, who has landed 38 of his 69 long passes (55.1 per cent).

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