William Saliba (22) is a guaranteed starter at Arsenal. That is not the case with France, and Didier Deschamps believes that the psychological pressure resulting the increased competition is impacting the young centre-back.
Since his return from a loan spell at Olympique de Marseille in the summer of 2022, Saliba’s place in the starting XI has not come under pressure at Arsenal. He has started all 12 of the Gunners’ Premier League fixtures and all four of their UEFA Champions League encounters so far this season.
The arrivals of Jakub Kiwior and Jurrien Timber, who suffered an injury in his first Premier League appearance and has not featured since have not challenged Saliba’s supremacy. Whilst the former Saint-Étienne centre-back exudes serenity at club level, the same cannot be said at international level.
‘Saliba isn’t in the same psychological situation with his club’ – Deschamps
Saliba was selected in Deschamps’ France squad to face Gibraltar and Greece and the manager spoke about the centre-back’s lack of game time with Les Bleus. “He hasn’t had a lot of game time with us. He is performing well for his club,” began Deschamps in a press conference, transcribed by RMC Sport.
He added, “At international level, he hasn’t always found himself in the best conditions in matches where I’ve rotated a lot. He isn’t in the same psychological situation with his club, where he doesn’t ask himself if he’ll play at the weekend. When he has game time with us, he tells himself he needs to play well because there are others behind him. He is not in a psychological situation that is the same as at his club. He has everything he needs to take the next step.”
Despite Raphaël Varane’s retirement from international football, Saliba is still in competition with Axel Disasi, Jean-Clair Todibo, Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konaté, Benjamin Pavard, Jules Koundé, Benoît Badiashile, Wesley Fofana and even Castello Lukeba, who is beginning to make his breakthrough. Guaranteeing yourself a starting spot in front of such players is no easy task.