William Saliba may have had to wait three years for his Arsenal debut but when it came it was very impressive.
The France international was a towering presence in the centre of defence as he helped the Gunners to a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
Strong in the air and composed with the ball at his feet, the 21-year-old won the man of the match award and then had the boss purring in his post-match press conference.
“You don’t really see that at 21 years old, a debut in the Premier League against this opponent, these physical players and resolve the situation the way he’s done it with that composure, with that calmness and with that presence. Big credit to the boy.”
On what he said to the player before the game, Arteta continued: “Let him be and let him play, it’s the way he has done it. The way we’ve tried to develop that player with his knowledge.
“At 19 years old to sign him and bring him back two years later is unusual. He’s been so determined and willing to come here and now prove the point that he’s ready. Now we are exposing the player in a really difficult environment where he can navigate and be comfortable and enjoy as well.”
Arteta also had warm words for fellow debutant Gabriel Jesus.
“He was electric, he was really mobile, really determined, really ‘I’m going to hurt the opponent’, he tramsits that and that creates uncertainty, it creates spaces and movement for his teammates. It’s great to have him.”
In his interview with Sky Sports, the manager noted that there were several elements to Arsenal’s game that need improving. Having started very sharply, the Gunners were under the cosh for much of the second half and only secured the points late on with a goal against the run of play.
“We need to be more ruthless in front of goal,” explained Arteta. “We had a situation to finish things better, even in the second half but it’s something that has to come. We’ve been scoring a lot of goals [in pre-season] and today, we lacked a little edge in the final ball, we didn’t finish enough final actions and then they had some transition moments, which is what they like to do. There were parts of the game, we have to do better.”
He continued: “Last year, the efficiency in the final third wasn’t good enough for the amount of chances we created. Where those situations finished it wasn’t good enough, nowhere near the top teams. We have to improve that and still we have to do that better but you see, you feel in the final third when we are there that something is going to happen and that creates fear in the opponents.”