Eight games into the new season and people are starting to mention Virgil van Dijk and William Saliba in the same breath.
Clearly, such talk is ridiculous.
For anyone who has watched Saliba knows all too well that he’s twice the player the Dutchman ever was.
Okay, okay…that’s a bit OTT but it says a lot about the Frenchman’s impressive start that his manager is already being quizzed on such comparisons.
When it was put to Arteta that Saliba can hit the same heights as Van Dijk – someone whose wikipedia page lists 23 individual awards in the last decade – the boss was a little taken aback.
“Wow, that’s a big call,” he said ahead of Sunday’s clash with Liverpool.
“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.
He added: “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.”
Having coped admirably with the challenge posed by Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min in last weekend’s derby, Saliba now gets to test himself against a Reds front line (even devoid of Sadio Mane) that have been every bit as potent in the last five years.
It’s going to be a mouthwatering showdown.
For his part, Jurgen Klopp has been very impressed by Arsenal this season. From the development of some of the young players to the way new signings have hit the ground running, he gave a glowing report on Friday.
“All my respect, wow. Really, really good job. When you need some time nobody wants to give you time and maybe not all of us deserve time, because you still have to be good to use the time – and that’s what Mikel obviously did.
“I have to say, really lots of respect for it. They had a lot of talent already in the last few years. Martinelli, I was very early excited about him and he became exactly the player I expected he will be.
“Martin Odegaard, I spoke to him when he was 15 from Norway when the whole world wanted him and he decided for Real Madrid. I remember as it would have been yesterday that we sat on a table with his dad and we were all so excited. Then came a few difficult years, which is normal when you are that much in the spotlight. So, he became the player everybody expected him to be that time.
“Saka, from the first day since he’s playing it’s incredible. And Gabriel Jesus, if anybody knew how good he could be not in a Man City shirt, in the fixed No.9 role, No.1 in the line-up, if you want, then it was Mikel because he worked together with him. Same with Zinchenko, saw great things. Brought Xhaka back on track. Thomas Partey, everybody knew how good he is when he was at Atletico.
“The last line is now really well settled, they found a way how they want to defend. Last night obviously they played a different line-up but still lots of quality. It’s a young team, a very exciting team, doing really well and [that] they are in the position they are [is] well deserved.
“Now we go there. Obviously we don’t think about the games we played against them [last season] because it makes not too much sense. We will try to cause them problems, I think that makes sense. So, I’m looking forward to it.”
We all are, Jurgen, we all are.