‘He said he wasn’t attacking me’ – William Saliba opens up on Didier Deschamps criticism

William Saliba (23) has responded to criticism from France manager Didier Deschamps, who earlier this year said that the Arsenal sometimes “did things that he didn’t like.” 

Whilst, in the Premier League, Saliba has enhanced his reputation over the course of the past two seasons, garnering a reputation as one of the best centre-backs in England’s top-flight, he is not perceived in the same way just across the English channel. 

The Arsenal defender has thus far failed to establish himself in Les Bleus’ defence, making just 14 appearances since his debut in March 2022. Speaking in March, Deschamps explained Saliba’s lack of playing time. “He is having a good season, but he also does things that I don’t like so much. For France, he has limited game time, but when he plays, that hasn’t necessarily gone well,” said the France manager. 

‘I don’t have a standout match for France’ – Saliba

Speaking to L’ÉquipeSaliba has responded to the criticism. “We spoke about it,” he began. “He said he wasn’t attacking me. I didn’t take it badly. I know he likes me. If he calls me up it’s because he likes me. He has a lot of choice in central defence. Even if I know that I can do better, he knows my qualities.” 

Showing the level of performance that he regularly shows for Arsenal, for France, is now the aim for the former AS Saint-Étienne, OGC Nice and Olympique de Marseille defender. “I don’t yet have a standout match for France. I’m starting to feel more at ease, feeling more confident. I know that there is tough competition,” he said. 

Saliba has been included in Les Bleus’ Euro 2024 squad, although he is not expected to be a starter. Bayern Munich’s Dayot Upamecano and Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konaté are currently ahead of him in the pecking order. It is up to Saliba to displace them. 

GFFN | Luke Entwistle

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