webnexttech | Didier Deschamps explains reluctance to start Arsenal star William Saliba for France
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Arsenal star William Saliba is not yet a guaranteed starter for France (Picture: Getty) Didier Deschamps has hailed William Saliba as ‘one of the very best defenders in the Premier League’ but says the youngster needs to build up a ‘repetition and understanding’ with his France team-mates if he is to nail down a regular starting spot at Euro 2024. Saliba, 21, enjoyed a stellar 2023/24 campaign alongside Gabriel Magalhaes at centre-half as Arsenal finished as runners-up in the Premier League for a second year in succession, while boasting the best defensive record in the division. But Saliba is yet to establish himself as a regular starter at international level, with Deschamps favouring Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate at the heart of his defence and openly criticising the Arsenal centre-back for aspects of his game he ‘does not like’. Reports emanating out of France last week suggested Saliba would start among the substitutes when France kick off their European Championships campaign against Group D opposition Austria. However, speculation is mounting that Deschamps could be set to change tack and throw Saliba into his starting XI and the former Saint-Etienne man will be desperate to impress should he get the nod in Dusseldorf. Speaking to The Athletic ahead of France’s group-stage opener on Monday night, the France manager explained his handling of Saliba and lifted the lid on his hopes for the defender in Germany. ‘William is one of the very best defenders in the Premier League,’ he said. ‘I want him to do what he does very well at Arsenal. He had a very, very good season. France manager Deschamps has been reluctant to start Saliba since the defender’s breakthrough (Picture: Getty) ‘He played many matches, especially with his partner Gabriel, and they were a fundamental part of what Arsenal did this season, particularly in the defensive aspect. ‘With us, he has not had the same playing time. There are automatisms which develop through playing matches together. You have repetition and understanding. ‘With a national team, we always have so little time, but now they have the possibility of living together for a few weeks and that is even better.’ The Frenchman shone at the heart of Arsenal’s defence last season (Picture: Getty) Speaking to Ouest-France ahead of Les Blues’ clash with Austria, Kylian Mbappe said childhood friend Saliba had ‘all the qualities’ to establish himself as a starter this summer. ‘I have known him since he was very, very young. We were in the same primary school in Bondy,’ the France forward said. ‘We played football together on our breaks, even though we weren’t in the same year, but he asked to play with us. ‘We allowed it because he was already big! Then my dad trained him at AS Bondy. I am three years older than him so I saw him grow up by following his journey and his games closely. ‘Seeing him in the national team, going from Bondy to Les Bleus, made me really happy. I tried to integrate him into the group as quickly as possible. ‘This season, he has become a very important player for Arsenal and is among the best centre-backs in the Premier League. ‘He is starting to get minutes with us. It’s now up to him to find his place. For me, he has all the qualities to, in time, be a starter with Les Bleus. ‘I look at his journey with the pride of an older brother. There is no taboo between us and we tease each other. For example, I often tell him that he wants to be the star of Bondy, but that it will never happen!’ For more stories like this, check our sport page. Follow Metro Sport for the latest news on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Arsenal news, exclusives and analysisSign upPrivacy PolicyThis site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

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