The centre-back, invaluable to Arsenal’s push for Premier League, was signed by man now in charge at Villa Park

Even in the most heated debates around the legacy Unai Emery bequeathed Arsenal in 2019, there is one incontestable point. William Saliba arrived that summer with a £27m price tag and a glowing reputation as one of the world’s most feted teenage centre-backs, but another three years would pass before he made an appearance for them. Emery was long gone by then but it is little exaggeration to say Arsenal have been transformed by Saliba’s signing from Saint-√Čtienne. On Saturday the pair will meet at Villa Park in what, against most pre-season expectations, may prove a pivotal clash between title contenders.

It is another chance for Saliba and Arsenal, on a six-game winning run in all competitions, to demonstrate that they can stay the course this time. “We have the experience of last season, of course we are better,” he says. “Maybe we can go one better.”

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