Saliba Describes Virgil Van Dijk as Best Premier League Defender



Arsenal defender William Saliba has made a shocking revelation leading up to this summer’s Euros in Germany about the Premier League’s best Centre-back.

Saliba has been a superb player for Arsenal in recent years including the just-concluded campaign where the Gunners finished behind champions Manchester City for the second season running.

The 23-year-old, who was listed among the France squad for the European Championships in June, had a few things to say about the defenders in the Premier League and the one he rates as best in the division and rating himself among the top three in the position.

Among Premier League followers this past season, Saliba’s name came up a few times as the best in the position alongside his teammate Gabriel. However, the duo were not listed among the player of the season contenders but they got named in the Premier League fans team of the Season, which further gives credence to the amount of work the duo have done in the Premier League this past season.

Saliba has already grown a reputation as arguably the best defender in the Premier League and his performances played a part in the increase in Arsenal tickets over recent time.

What Saliba said on the best defender topic

Saliba has named the Premier League’s best centre-back as Virgil van Dijk ahead of the start of EURO 2024. The Liverpool captain completed another trophy-winning season at Anfield as Jurgen Klopp left the club.

In addition, the 23-year-old Arsenal defender believes he is in the ‘top three’ centre-backs in the English top-flight after the Gunners’ defensively astute campaign.

Saliba is aware of how people view him, but Van Dijk takes the crown in his eyes – naming the Liverpool star as “the boss”.

Speaking to L’Equipe ahead of this summer’s tournament in Germany, Saliba said that Van Dijk makes strikers ‘scared’ to take him on.

“[Virgil] Van Dijk has aura. He’s the boss. He commands everything. You can feel he’s scaring strikers away. And I’m starting to feel the same way,” Saliba stated.

“I think I am in the top three [defenders in the league]. We finished with the best defence. I watch a lot of matches. I am a very humble person but last season, just like this season, I was in the top three defenders.

“I need to continue to work to go even higher. In terms of concentration, I am a lot better. Before, I could play a top match but in one phase of play, I slept a bit. That is no longer the case. I am always on alert,” The Frenchman concluded.

Van Dijk and Saliba Are Similar Players

On the surface, their pattern of plays are quite similar. Both are naturally tall and athletic, strong in the air, and quick. But it’s the strides that they take across the backline that slow attackers down before they commit themselves to such moments.

Both defenders play Liverpool and Arsenal who are always on the front foot for most of the game. So, their backlines need to be quick to avoid counter-attacks when attacking in numbers; and Van Dijk has been great for Liverpool since he moved to Merseyside. He has been phenomenal in those situations and 1-v-1 moments to thwart imminent danger from the opposition.

As for Saliba, he has been able to play a key part in back-to-back title challenges with Arsenal and most of the players are just getting to their peak, which means they are not finished products just yet. The Gunners, as a team, are on the path to reaching the level Liverpool produced under Jurgen Klopp.

Van Dijk, 32, is almost a decade older than Saliba, so it is easy to see why the Frenchman adores the Dutchman a lot.

All Saliba needs to do now is add trophies to his cabinet at the Emirates Stadium; Van Dijk has won four major domestic trophies at Liverpool alongside the Champions League and Saliba will be hoping to produce similar at a much younger age than he was when Van Dijk began his trophy haul.

William Saliba’s time at Arsenal so far

The 23-year-old joined Arsenal in 2019 under Unai Emery and took some time to get going at the Emirates Stadium in his first few seasons at the club by embarking on three separate loan spells – all in France, as he joined Saint-Etienne, Nice, and Marseille in a trio of moves back to his home country. But 2022/23 was the campaign where he finally found his way into the Gunners’ first team, and he hasn’t looked back since with a series of mature, athletic displays.

Arsenal’s 2022/2023 campaign was massively hampered by the French defender’s unlucky injury during the title run-in. Picking up an injury in the return leg against Sporting CP in their UEFA Europa League exploits.

In the 2023/24 campaign, his return to the full set-up saw him play every one of the club’s games across the season. Saliba racked up the most clean sheets by a player in lone company with 18. Saliba played in every single Premier League game for Arsenal in the 2023/24 season.

Saliba’s impressive run of form has already earned him a spot in France’s 2024 European Championships squad. Saliba commanded 78 clearances, 46 headed clearances and 72 aerial duels. In addition, he recorded a remarkable 93% pass accuracy from 2628 total passes. In the attacking shift, he put in two-headed goals and created six chances of his own.

Although, Mikel Arteta did however refute it was a major determinant “I didn’t know about that narrative. But Saliba is a massive player for us and you see the impact he has on the team. We need everyone but he is really important.” He said.

Saliba’s return to full action this season has shown exactly why the club missed his quality during the run-in last campaign and he will be important for the Gunners in the forthcoming campaign.

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