Martin Keown reacts to William Saliba display in Arsenal draw vs Sporting
Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

Martin Keown reacts to William Saliba display in Arsenal draw vs Sporting

Martin Keown told BT Sport (broadcast on 9/3; 18:41) that William Saliba was a real standout for him after the first-half of Arsenal’s Europa League tie with Sporting on Thursday.

Mikel Arteta’s men will probably feel that they are in a good position to get through to the next stage in Europe after a 2-2 draw in Portugal. An own goal from the home side ensured that the Gunners will go into the second-leg level.

Photo by Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images

Sporting will be disappointed. Despite being second best for much of the game, Ruben Amorim’s men had turned the game around and gone 2-1 ahead early in the second-half.

Keown praises Saliba during Arsenal tie

It had been Saliba who broke the deadlock for the visitors. The Frenchman produced a superb header to put Arsenal in front. And he was excellent all night.

Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

He was handed a tough task, with Matt Turner coming in for a rare appearance in goal. He was also paired with Jakub Kiwior for the first time following the Poland international’s January move.

But Saliba relished the leadership role – at the age of 21, no less. And at half-time, Keown suggested that the defender really stepped up for the Premier League leaders on Thursday as he analysed the goal from Saliba.

“Saliba was really standing out for me,” he told BT Sport. “And I think this sort of caps his performance tonight. Powering header, dominant as it comes into the box. Okay, defending’s not fantastic. But there’s only one person going to win this.

“And, as I say, he’s growing in stature now, playing in the French national team. Week-in, week-out, really good performances.”

It is amazing to think that there seemed to be speculation heading into this season. Saliba, of course, spent last year on loan with Marseille. And he had to wait some time to actually get his chance for the Gunners.

Mikel Arteta had a plan in mind for Saliba. And, despite receiving plenty of criticism, he never deviated from that plan. It is clearly now reaping huge rewards.

Saliba is still a youngster. And he is going to make further mistakes. But there cannot have been too many 21-year-olds who looked so comfortable at centre-back on these kinds of stages.

It is frightening to think about the level he could reach in the years to come.

Have something to tell us about this article?
Let us know

You may also like…