Arsenal can sign perfect Saliba partner in £43m-rated “generational” talent

Arsenal will be looking to make amends for their festive period slump when they restart their Premier League campaign against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Mikel Arteta may be hoping that the break has helped his frontline rediscover their goalscoring form and that the rest of the side can go back to their best of last season.
However, with the transfer window in full swing, the club have also been linked to several potential recruits, with one of the latest having the potential to be the perfect partner for William Saliba – and he just so happens to have been likened to Gabriel.
Arsenal look to Germany for a new defensive stalwart

As per a report from The Athletic last month, Arsenal are keeping an eye on highly-rated Dutch defender Matthijs De Ligt – with the Gunners, therefore, likely to be interested in recent developments in Bavaria regarding the centre-back.

According to a more recent report from German publication BILD this week, the former Ajax star has had a ‘fall-out’ with Bayern Munich manager Thomas Tuchel over his lack of game time this season, which has, in turn, led to an opportunity for the Gunners.

However, the north Londoners aren’t the only ones in the picture, as the BILD report also notes Manchester United as a possible suitor, with Erik ten Hag’s time with the centre-back in Amsterdam potentially set to help the Red Devils jump ahead of Arsenal.
No transfer fee has been reliably reported as of yet, but the CIES football observatory values the 24-year-old at £43m, and with his position in the team plus his aforementioned relationship with the manager, this could well be accurate.

How De Ligt compares to Gabriel

Now, if the Dutch “monster”, as he was described by data analyst Ben Mattinson, ends up signing for Arsenal, it would almost certainly be with the guarantee that he would be given a starting role alongside Saliba, meaning that, unfortunately for Gabriel, a seat on the bench would beckon.
While learning how to play with a new partner can take time for centre-backs, it could be a relatively painless experience for Saliba, as according to FBref, the second most similar player in Europe’s top five leagues to De Ligt is Gabriel.

FBref comes to this conclusion by looking at where each player ranks for several key metrics across those leagues and then ranks the ten most similar players for those who play in said leagues.
However, how do the pair stack up when comparing their underlying numbers? Should Gabriel be worried?

Well, it’s more bad news for the former LOSC Lille man, as in almost every relevant metric, Bayern’s “generational” talent, as described by talent scout Jacek Kluig, has him beaten, although the fact that De Ligt has played fewer minutes this season does mean that there is perhaps an element of doubt with these figures.
Ultimately, Gabriel is a brilliant defender, of that there is no doubt, but if Arsenal can get their hands on De Ligt for a relatively modest price, they absolutely should, as a partnership between him and Saliba could make a massive difference in the title race and beyond.

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