Saliba has an aerial success rate of 74.4%, placing him in the 95th percentile amongst center backs with 10+ starts in Europe’s top five leagues. Furthermore, he ranks amongst the finest center backs in the continent when it comes to defensive duels won (76.7%) placing in the 98th percentile in the 2019/20 season.
Apart from being able to evade pressure and progress the ball, what makes Saliba a genuine ball-playing center back is his ability to switch the play with his long balls and find attackers in behind the opponent’s defensive line.
Whilst many Arsenal defenders have been criticized for being lanky or weak, Saliba is anything but; he’s not just tall, he’s physically imposing and he knows how to use his body to win ground and aerial duels.
In less than a year, he has already made strides in areas such as reading the game and defending transitions, and he’ll only improve playing in a possession-heavy side and working under a progressive manager such as Arteta. For a team that has struggled so much on the defensive side in recent years, it appears those issues may be coming to an end soon.
Saliba’s main issue in was either losing focus and letting players get runs they shouldn’t be able to get, or being indecisive with when to challenge. But during the times he played this season, he looked far more improved. Basically he began to track and lockdown opponents that attempted to make runs into the box and became far better at defensive duels.