Saliba impresses even in defeat against Mbappe’s PSG

Robin Bairner
Robin Bairner Updated: 19 May 2021 16:43 CEST 3 min read
Saliba impresses even in defeat against Mbappe’s PSG

It may ultimately have been a disappointing day’s work for Nice as they lost 2-1 to Paris Saint-Germain away from home, but on-loan Arsenal centre-back William Saliba again gave a strong account of himself.

Efficiency rather than consistent pressure was the secret of PSG’s victory, with Nice the better side in the second half, even hitting the underside of the bar when the score was level.

Prior to the match, visiting boss Adrian Ursea had praised the additional assurance that William Saliba and Jean-Clair Todibo, a January loan addition from Barcelona, had brought his side in the centre of defence. That was evident as they adopted a more confident attitude than a side placed 13th in Ligue 1 has the right to.

Saliba’s performance was more about intelligence than raw strength, underlined by the fact he did not make a single foul throughout. He made three interceptions and recovered possession four times, while he won his only aerial duel.

William Saliba snapshot:

PASS %92
Figures from Football Critic

Nice were able to push higher up the field due to the speed they had in the heart of their defensive line, and as a consequence they came under little intense pressure from their opponents.

Saliba’s passing was instrumental in this. He used the ball well, completing 92% of his passes, including four well-struck long passes into the final third of the park.

It was a figure that compared favourably to centre-back partner Todibo, who made only 87% of his passes, which were typically hit over a shorter distance. Meanwhile, the on-loan Barcelona man won only one of three duels, although he did complete a match-high five clearances.

Indeed, Saliba gave the ball away only six times – only Idrissa Gueye posted a lower tally of the game’s starting outfield players.

It was a near flawless game from Nice’s central defensive combination, yet a momentary lapse after 76 minutes from a Kylian Mbappe cross was to be harshly punished. Mauro Icardi turned the ball across goal on the stretch, with Moise Kean having drifted in between Saliba and Todibo to convert from close range.

Once again, Saliba gave a promising display, raising more questions as to why he has not earned more game time at Arsenal.