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Arsenal star was just as sensational as Saliba vs Man Utd

Written by on May 12, 2024

So, there we have it. After 38 game weeks of Premier League action the title will not be decided until the final weekend of the campaign. Arsenal needed to beat Manchester United to make that definitive and they did, although they did ride their luck.

The Gunners have a wretched record at Old Trafford but despite the gulf in class between the two teams this term, could only come away with a 1-0 victory.

Following United’s 4-0 defeat against Crystal Palace last Monday, Mikel Arteta’s men would have been licking their lips over facing Erik ten Hag’s side. That said, the Dutchman tinkered with his team and the Red Devils looked more organised, certainly in midfield.

Yet, Casemiro, poor old languid Casemiro was to blame again. Up to the game’s only goal, United had coped well, only for the Brazilian to have an unforgivable lapse in concentration.

He failed to stay with his defensive line which allowed Kai Havertz in behind. The German got to the byline and pulled the ball back for Leandro Trossard. It was a simple finish, he could not miss, he did not miss.

The Belgian’s sweet run of form – now scorer of 17 goals this season – continued to ensure that no matter what happens between Manchester City and Tottenham on Tuesday night, nothing will be determined until next Sunday evening.

So, Arteta certainly has Trossard and Havertz to thank for their exploits in attack this weekend, but who else deserves praise? A certain William Saliba does.

William Saliba’s performance in numbers

Earlier this week the French centre-half was named among the nominees for the Young Player of the Season award. Deservedly so, this has been an impeccable campaign for a defender who has looked like a Rolls-Royce at the back.


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He showed as much at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. Helping to keep Arsenal’s 11 away clean sheet in the league this term, Saliba took home the Player of the Match award for his disciplined display.

Why? Well, it was a dominating performance. United didn’t throw much at the Gunners but Rasmus Hojlund still proved a handful. Alejandro Garnacho was also lively down the left. At one stage in the second half, the winger broke with pace and strode into the penalty area, only to be met by the wall of Saliba who stuck out a leg and made an inch-perfect tackle.


That was one of seven duels the Frenchman won. So good was the former Saint-Etienne defender that he won all of those duels. That will no doubt please a beaming Arteta.

Saliba had 99 touches of the ball – the most of any player on the field – and completed 76 passes at a 90% success rate, again the highest number of any player at Old Trafford.

That said, let’s hand out some praise to his partner in crime as well, Gabriel.

Gabriel’s performance in numbers

While Saliba has been nominated for the Young Player of the Year award, it feels as though Gabriel has rather been forgotten about. He shouldn’t have; this is another impeccable central defender right at the top of his game.

Still, the Brazilian has had his own individual accolade to celebrate having been called up for Copa America this summer, only a few days ago.


It’s thoroughly deserved for a man who has been one of the finest centre-backs in the top flight this season.

Like Saliba, he was excellent at winning duels on Sunday evening, winning 100% of his ground duels and only losing one of his two battles in the air.

Gabriel vs Man Utd

Minutes played




Accurate passes

55/58 (95%)

Ground duels won


Aerial duels won








Dribbled past




Stats via Sofascore.

He marshalled Hojlund with relative ease, strong and aggressive against the Dane with Football.London’s Kaya Kaynak highlighting as such.

‘Typically solid display from the Brazilian. Probably a sign of the reputation he’s got that Hojlund looked to target Saliba. Stayed switched on when United had the ball for long periods’ wrote Kaynak, who handed the 26-year-old a 7/10 rating.

Incredibly composed, no player left the field with a better pass competition rate than Gabriel’s 95%. He is remarkably steady with the ball at his feet and deserves just as much praise as Saliba is getting. They are certainly the best pairing in the Premier League this season.

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