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'Saliba will walk back into Arsenal team!' - £27m defender is 'up there with Marquinhos & Thiago Silva', insists Mavididi

14:42 EAT 02/02/2022
William Saliba Marseille Kylian Mbappe PSG
A former Gunners forward currently playing for Montpellier in Ligue 1 has described the Frenchman as "one of the best" centre-backs he's ever faced

William Saliba "will walk back into the Arsenal team next season", according to Stephy Mavididi, who has insisted that the £27 million ($37m) defender is in the same class as Marquinhos and Thiago Silva.

Arsenal spent big money to sign Saliba from Saint-Etienne in the summer of 2019 before sending him back to the Ligue 1 club on loan.

The Frenchman joined up with his new team-mates at Emirates Stadium the following year but was left out of Mikel Arteta's first-team squad for the 2021-22 campaign and has since taken in further loan spells at Nice and Marseille.

What's been said?

Saliba has impressed at Stade Velodrome this season as Marseille have risen to third in the Ligue 1 standings, and Mavididi is confident he will return to Arsenal in the summer primed and ready to make a big impact on Arteta's team.

The Montpellier forward, who has been on the losing side against Marseille twice already in 2021-22, admits that Saliba is one of the toughest defenders he's faced in his career alongside the likes of Paris Saint-Germain's Marquinhos and Chelsea talisman Silva.

“That guy’s a player,” the former Arsenal youngster said of Saliba in an interview with LiveScore. “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 last year 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, out quitted you, 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!”

Arteta's stance on Saliba

Saliba is still waiting for his first senior appearance at Arsenal under Arteta, but the Gunners boss has hinted that he has a role waiting for him at Emirates Stadium next season.

"As a club we are always in touch," Arteta told reporters when quizzed on Saliba in October.

"They went to see that game. Edu and Ben [Knapper, Arsenal loan manager] were there to watch him and keep a close eye on him and the progress he is making.

"I think there is room [to accommodate him, Ben White and Gabriel]. It will depend on what happens with other players."

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