International Soccer

Mikel Arteta reveals secret to William Saliba & Gabriel’s successful partnership

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta says William Saliba and Gabriel’s natural “chemistry” is one of the keys to their successful partnership.

Saliba and Gabriel are regarded by many to be the Premier League’s top centre-back duo, with each playing starring roles as Arsenal look to end their 20-year wait for a league title.

The Gunners play host to relegation strugglers Luton Town on Wednesday night, where they will hope to put the pressure on table-toppers Liverpool with a valuable three points, and Arteta was asked in his pre-match press conference when he first thought the pair could work as Arsenal’s long-term centre-back pairing.

“When I decided with Edu and the club to send Willy to Marseille. In that moment… No, I’m just joking,” Arteta quipped.

“You just feel it when you see the partnership. Sometimes there is a chemistry between two players that complement each other. They are so happy to work with and for each other. It just flows. They really enjoy playing together and they’ve been really good.”

Arsenal were in a strong position to topple Manchester City in last season’s Premier League title race, only for an injury to Saliba to derail their progress. When the Frenchman sustained a leg injury against Sporting CP in the second leg of their Europa League last 16 tie, Arsenal were five points clear at the top of the Premier League table.

Mikel Arteta

Arteta has complimented Saliba and Gabriel / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

But 11 games later, Arsenal had dropped points on six different occasions – a rocky run of results that ultimately allowed City to lift the title for a third successive season.

Asked about whether or not Saliba’s absence was a deciding factor in Arsenal’s implosion, Arteta said: “I didn’t know about that narrative. But Saliba is a massive player for us and you see the impact he has on the team. We need everyone but he is really important.”

Saliba and Gabriel were at their best during Sunday’s 0-0 draw with City at the Etihad Stadium – a result that not only kept them above Pep Guardiola’s side but also ended a run of eight defeats on the bounce in Manchester.

They will likely start again against Luton and against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday, before the club’s Champions League campaign resumes with a heavyweight quarter-final tie against Bayern Munich – a contest that will see old foe Harry Kane return to north London less than a year after he departed rivals Tottenham Hotspur in search of trophy success.

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