William Saliba plays for Arsenal as Mikel Arteta’s side notch opening day defeats Crystal Palace

DANIEL MATTHEWS: It’s early days but William Saliba’s appearance at Crystal Palace shows that patience has paid off for the French defender… his second Arsenal signing showed both composure and finesse

  • William Saliba made his first start for the Gunners in the win over Crystal Palace
  • The France centre-back was named Man of the Match in Arsenal’s 2-0 win
  • The 21-year-old came over from Saint-Etienne in 2019 but is struggling with the performance
  • A goal from Gabriel Martinelli and an own goal from Palace secured the three points

Three debuts, two new faces, a man that Arsenal fans have been particularly longing for.

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To be honest, they had been waiting for a while. William Saliba first came to North London in 2019. Arsenal paid £27million for the then-teenage defender. Last night, after three years and three rental periods in France, finally a competition bow.

You can forgive those who wondered if that day would ever come.

You can understand why for some, a first sighting of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko would always play second fiddle. During his absence, an almost cult-like fervor developed around the 21-year-old Frenchman.

William Saliba signed with the Gunners in 2019 before being loaned to France three times

Perhaps Saliba’s biggest task last night wasn’t selling Crystal Palace, but somehow satisfying all the anticipation.

Did he succeed? Could he succeed?

Well, he left Selhurst Park with a clean sheet, a win and the Man of the Match award after showing composure and finesse. Early days, of course, but this was a night that suggests Arsenal’s investment will finally pay off.

Early signs this summer had already convinced Mikel Arteta it was worth moving Ben White back to the right to put the Frenchman alongside Gabriel Magalhaes. There was little to suggest that this recipe for success needed to be adjusted – even if Takehiro Tomiyasu is fully fit again.

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There was also a snag after the break when Saliba misjudged a cross and then missed a through ball to Eberechi Eze. Luckily, Aaron Ramsdale kept Arsenal up front.

Arsenal won 2-0 at Selhurst Park thanks to a goal from Gabriel Martinelli and a Palace OG

But then some clean, hacking tackles came at Zaha. And another 45 minutes to suggest Saliba will remain here in the heart of Arsenal’s back four.

No one had covered more distances or won the ball more often going into the final stages.

Yes, there are many more, much tougher tests ahead.

But that was a good start, as long as it took to catch on.