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Arsenal: William Saliba worth the wait as Gabriel Jesus transforms attack – what we learned from Crystal Palace win

When Arsenal came to Selhurst Park in April, they collapsed and their season went into crisis.

This time, however, they held their ground and left south London with their campaign off to a strong start which will no doubt have pleased Mikel Arteta.

There was a lot of hype surrounding Arsenal during pre-season, partly because they won all of their friendlies, but also because their transfer deals were done early.

Often Arsenal have arrived at this stage still waiting for new arrivals, but the likes of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko have come through the door quickly in the summer and it has paid off.

Both made strong debuts here at Selhurst, although they were overshadowed by third rookie William Saliba.

William Saliba made a superb debut at Arsenal, three years after joining the club

/ Getty Images

Arsenal’s pre-season has been hyped, but that’s nothing compared to the noise that has surrounded Saliba since signing for the club in 2019.

The Gunners then paid Saint-Etienne £28m for him, but only now was he making his competitive debut after a series of loan moves. The wait, it seems, might have been worth it as Saliba was imperious tonight as he helped Arsenal to a 2-0 win.

The 21-year-old was big and strong in the tackle, but on the ball he was also calm and it was easy to see why he won the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award while on loan in Marseilles last season.

The stats spoke for themselves at Selhurst Park as Saliba played the entire match without committing a single foul, making six clearances and seven recoveries. His success rate was also 94%.

Arsenal will have high hopes for him this season and the optimism around the whole squad will continue after this win. They got off to a flying start, with the front three of Bukayo Saka, Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli looking very sharp.

Jesus seems to have a transformative impact on this attack, giving them the pace and drive that were lacking last season.

He created a first chance for Martinelli with a mazy run and, as the winger squandered that, he caught him in the 20th minute. It was a goal straight from the training ground as a deep corner found Zinchenko and he headed in for Martinelli to score.

Gabriel Jesus is already having a transformative impact on Mikel Arteta’s thrilling attack

/ Reuters

From there you expected Arsenal to start but instead Palace came back and the Gunners had to dig in. They couldn’t do it in April, collapsing at a crucial point in their season, but this time they were solid.

Aaron Ramsdale was a big reason behind this, making a number of vital saves to prevent first Odsonne Edouard and then Eberechi Eze.

Palace, and the whole of Selhurst Park, seemed to sense that not taking those risks would prove costly – and it did. Saka, who had spent most of his night coming back to help Ben White deal with Wilfried Zaha, made sure of that by securing a late assist. The winger fizzled in a cross and Marc Guehi could only steer him into his own net instead of heading away from danger.

The late goal secured all three points for Arsenal and capped a confidence-boosting performance. The mood compared to April couldn’t be more different.

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