Saliba's Debut - Numbers, Numbers, Numbers
Not much to say on a 4-1 win over a team looking to stay up in League One next season announced hours before it kicked off.
Ainsley continues to make me believe he might be the real deal - an assured outing this afternoon as rumours of a £20m move to Wolves swirl. Elneny does what Elneny does - recycling the ball (was he at no.10 at one point?). Tierney continues to shine - with added maturity and composure. Nice to see some of the young guys getting a run out - Miguel Azeez and Ben Cottrell looking particularly assured, and nice to see Reiss taking some responsibility, slotting home a calm penalty.
And Bukayo just suits that no.7 doesn't he?
The Dons didn't really pose us much of a threat. Rob Holding scored their only goal, and despite their coach looking like a Love Island contestant (and called Russell), he couldn't find them much sunlight. Get it?
All in all, a decent run out for some senior legs in a game that meant absolutely nothing - but we did see our new (kinda) signing William Saliba in action for the first time in his no.4 shirt after his year with ASSE. I pretty much exclusively watched him because there's only so many times I can watch Mo Elneny pass sidewards...here's my observations.
Stats and numbers mean whatever you make them mean (which is a polite way of saying they don't mean a lot out of context), so I believe it's always best to judge a player with your eyes when they first sign, and especially on such a small amount of data. Firstly, and probably most importantly - his attitude looked first class. Switched on, looking around for the threats, head up, communicative (including with Arteta) and open on the pitch. A player of his age, price tag and stature could carry a bit of arrogance, and maybe he does, but it's great to see him leave it off the pitch.
Secondly - his physical profile is incredible. 6'4 and well built, but he doesn't lose any pace - he moves so well for a man of his size, and cushions the ball so well with a slightly strange end-of-the-foot technique, but he is so composed. Mostly used his right on the right of a 3 at the back in our attacking phase, but can use his left. I wouldn't say he looked 'calm' but he made the right decisions every time.
Perhaps his most impressive feature though, was his ability to charge forward, and crucially, deliver the right pass into Elneny, Xhaka or Saka. This is so important in the modern game. It makes me so frustrated at how long we've been left with players who don't have this attribute - watch the full clip of that second goal. It's just such a great bit of underrated play, charging forward, causing the Dons players to drop, and delivering the right ball into Cedric - although I'm glad the commentator did mention it.
It was a really solid debut, with a few nice 'tweet worthy' moments. Let's hope he can improve his presence from set pieces, but a genuine ball-playing centre back has been needed for a solid 3/4 seasons, and I'm so glad we appear to have plugged that hole... x2 potentially, with Gabriel. Speaking of which, I'm hoping we see Gabriel announced over Wednesday/Thursday this week. Would seem strange to not get it out before Arteta's pre-Liverpool press conference if it's all signed and done. Let's hope he gets the no.6.
All that Gabriel stuff and more in this week's pod, by the way.
By the way - no.20 and no.29 given away to youth players - does it mean Shkodran and Matteo are off? Wouldn't mind it. Also - Xhaka captain... yes please.
PS - Messi to Arsenal? It's on.
Have a good Wednesday.
The Different Knock