Jamie Carragher compares William Saliba's impact at Arsenal to Virgil van Dijk's at Liverpool

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Jamie Carragher praises William Saliba’s impact at Arsenal as he admits the defender is the same ‘mould’ as Virgil van Dijk… but claims Gunners centre-back still has ‘a LONG way to go’ to reach the Dutchman’s level

  • Jamie Carragher has praised William Saliba for his start to the season at Arsenal
  • Carragher can see similarities between Saliba and Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk
  • Carragher believes Saliba’s presence has improved Arsenal’s defence this term
  • However, he still thinks Saliba has more to do to reach the level of van Dijk 

Jamie Carragher has hailed William Saliba’s impact at Arsenal this season, but still feels the defender ‘has a long way to go’ to reach the level of Virgil van Dijk.

Saliba returned to the Emirates Stadium in the summer after three separate loan spells in France, and has played a crucial role in Arsenal’s positive start to the campaign which has seen them move to the top of the table. They are currently 11 points clear of ninth-placed Liverpool.

The two sides are due to face each other on Sunday and comparisons have been made between Saliba and van Dijk in recent weeks. Carragher has admitted he can see similarities between the pair, but believes Saliba needs to prove himself over a longer period.

William Saliba has had a positive impact at Arsenal since coming into the team this season

William Saliba has had a positive impact at Arsenal since coming into the team this season

Saliba has been compared to Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk after impressing at Arsenal

Saliba has been compared to Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk after impressing at Arsenal

‘Saliba is a modern centre-back in the Van Dijk mould. He is fast enough to deal with the quickest strikers, aerially strong to cope with target men, and comfortable in possession to ensure his side can play from the back,’ Carragher wrote in his Daily Telegraph column on Friday.

‘Yes, these are early days and Saliba has a long way to go to match Van Dijk’s long-term influence at Liverpool, but he has had an immediate impact on how structurally sound a previously flaky defence looks.

‘There is an echo of Van Dijk’s early months at Anfield.’

Arsenal’s defensive statistics have improved since Saliba came into the team, and Carragher thinks the Frenchman’s well-rounded game has played a significant role in the team’s development.

‘So far, Arsenal are conceding fewer goals and shots per game than last season, and there has been a significant drop off in the number of touches opponents are having in their penalty area,’ he continued.

Jamie Carragher can see similarities between Saliba and van Dijk but thinks the Arsenal defender has more to do to reach the Dutchman's level

Jamie Carragher can see similarities between Saliba and van Dijk but thinks the Arsenal defender has more to do to reach the Dutchman’s level

‘The major tactical difference a player such as Saliba makes is in enabling the team to play higher up the pitch, trusting their pacey, multi-faceted centre-half to react if strikers try to get in behind.

‘This has been the foundation of Liverpool’s approach under Klopp, too, which is why there is so much focus on Van Dijk’s level right now. 

‘He was the player singled out when the defence looked imperious, so naturally finds himself the focus of attention when they look more vulnerable, albeit it is the collective responsibility of the team to make such a defensive style work.’

Mikel Arteta’s side have won seven of their opening eight matches, but Carragher feels their only defeat against Manchester United highlighted that Saliba and Arsenal must get even better if they want to maintain a title challenge this term.

‘So far, Saliba has been the perfect fit for Arteta, although he will occasionally show inexperience. His misjudgement enabled Marcus Rashford to score on the counter-attack at Old Trafford recently,’ he added.

‘Arsenal paid a heavy price, losing a game they should have won. Although that is the only blemish this season, it demonstrated where Arsenal must improve to get close to the extraordinary standards set by Liverpool and Manchester City.’

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