Former Gunner Stephy Mavididi believes William Saliba has what it takes to be an Arsenal player, having seen the 20 year old up close and personal in Ligue 1 this season.
Mavididi, who now plays for Montpellier, was speaking in an interview with LiveScore, and said, “That guy’s a player. He’s hands down one of the best defenders in the league, hands down.
“I think he’ll walk back into the Arsenal team next season. When I played against him I thought ‘How is this guy not playing at Arsenal?!’
“He’s strong, good on the ball, he reads the game well. Sometimes you walk off the pitch and think ‘Fair play man, respect’ – the defender has kept up with you, out tussled you, and you have to say fair play, this guy’s a good player.
“He’s one of the best centre-backs I’ve faced. Everyone can talk about Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Jerome Boateng, but he’s up there. He’s the one that surprised me the most.
“I’m an Arsenal fan too and playing against Saliba I thought, we’ve got a very decent defender here!”
Having come through the Hale End ranks, Mavididi left Arsenal in 2018 to join Juventus, before making his move to France in 2020. He’s scored 8 goals and made 3 assists for a Montpellier side that are currently in 6th place and pushing for a European spot.
The Saliba situation is one that is of real interest to Arsenal fans, but what seems clear is that his loan spell with Marseille has been very good for his development. He’s had some blips as you would expect with any young defender, but in general his performances have earned him plenty of praise.
Speaking last week, he sounded like someone who understood the benefit of the decision to send him on loan, even if he was taken aback at the time.
“There are things like that in football,” he said, “There are difficult times. It’s not all rosy.
“Even if it didn’t go well on a personal level, I take it as an experience. It gave me a stronger mentality.
“Before going to Arsenal, I said to myself that I was going to play, I was convinced I would, I wondered who I was going to play with. I then arrived, I didn’t play any games, I played with the Under-23s. It gave me a good slap.
“For the coach, I wasn’t ready yet. When there was the first lockdown, I was at home in Paris. I didn’t do anything at all, I only ran a little, I didn’t have any physical condition.
“Then I came back. I trained for two weeks on my own. We had two or three friendlies but I had to regain physical condition.
“The league then followed quickly and the coach felt that I was not ready. I respect his decision.”
Hopefully his good season with Marseille will continue, and he comes back next season fully ready to stake a claim for a first team place.
Stephy Mavididi was speaking to LiveScore. To read the full interview head to LiveScore’s News Section