Arsenal's William Saliba names Premier League star 'the boss' and says rivals fear him

Arsenal’s William Saliba has hailed Virgil van Dijk. (Image: Getty)

William Saliba has hailed Virgil van Dijk as “the boss”, claiming the Liverpool defender’s aura strikes fear into Premier League attackers. And the Arsenal star believes he is entering the same category after another formidable season that fuelled a second consecutive title challenge from Mikel Arteta’s side.

Arsenal boasted the best defence in the Premier League last term, conceding just 29 goals in 38 games, as they narrowly missed out to Manchester City for a second year running.

David Raya won the Golden Glove for keeping 16 clean sheets, helped by a solid partnership formed by Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes at the heart of the defence.

Saliba kept more clean sheets than any other player in the competition (18) and is rapidly growing his reputation as one of Europe’s top centre-backs.

Aged just 23, the Frenchman is confident he is starting to sense fear within his opponents, similar to Van Dijk, a player he is often compared to.

“Virgil van Dijk has the aura, for example. He’s the boss, he commands everything. You feel that it scares the attackers,” Saliba told L’Equipe.

“But I’m starting to feel the same. I’m starting to see that the attackers feel fear. Sometimes, when players are in your area, they don’t have fun.

Virgil van Dijk is recognised as one of the world’s best. (Image: Getty)

“And when there is a one-on-one and the player will back down, take out the ball, flee the duel, it’s fun.”

Arsenal signed Saliba as an 18-year-old from Saint-Etienne in the summer of 2019, splashing around £27million for his signature.

The 14-cap French sentinel’s future at the Emirates Stadium looked in doubt at one stage after spending the first three years away from the club on loan.

But following stints at Saint-Etienne, Nice and Marseille, Saliba has flourished into an elite defender, and he believes he is only getting better.

He added: “I think I am in the top three [defenders in the league]. We finished with the best defence. I watch a lot of matches.

“I am a very humble person, but last season, just like this season, I was in the top three defenders. I need to continue to work to go even higher, but in terms of concentration, I am a lot better.

“Before, I could play a top match, but in one phase of play, I slept a bit. That is no longer the case. I am always on alert.”

Saliba’s stock could rise even higher this summer as he prepares to play a major role in France’s EURO 2024 campaign.