Arsenal pair Guendouzi and Saliba impress on Marseille debuts
Arsenal duo Matteo Guendouzi and William Saliba recently completed season-long loan moves to Marseille, and the pair made their debut for the club on Wednesday.
Marseille were held to a 1-1 draw in an encounter with Braga – Dimitri Payet getting the goal with a nice half-volley in the second half – but it was the performances of the debutants that was the talking point come full-time.
OM had struggled in the first half of the match, failing to get away a single shot on target and looking physically exhausted.
However, they improved after the break – and especially in the final 20 minutes, which was the period in which Guendouzi and Saliba featured for Jorge Sampaoli’s side.
Guendouzi certainly did not play the match as if it were a friendly. Known for his ultra-competitive spirit, the young central midfielder, perhaps eager to show fans his past as a Paris Saint-Germain youth player was behind him, he was solid in his challenges and willing to fight for his side.
In addition to this, however, he showed excellent technical qualities throughout this encounter, which will be priceless for Marseille going forward.
Saliba, meanwhile, is returning for his third loan spell in Ligue 1 in three years. Having previously turned out for Saint-Etienne, the club at which he came through the academy, and Nice, he is stepping up to one of Ligue 1’s historical heavyweights.
He had a quieter debut that Guendouzi, given little important work to do in part thanks to the play of the midfielder in front of him. Nevertheless, he was comfortable on the ball and read the game smartly – a marked contrast to Leonardo Balerdi, who had been in lamentable form in the first half.
Even in this 20-minute cameo, Guendouzi and Saliba showed that they will be important players for Marseille in the coming season and at least hinted that Arsenal may live to regret letting them depart once more on loan.