Was Saliba’s injury the only reason Arsenal collapsed in the title race?

Why did Arsenal not finish the season as they should have to win the Premier League? That’s a question we’ve all been pondering on these last few days. In response to “that” question, ex-Arsenal player Emmanuel Eboe stated that Saliba’s picking up a back injury back in March in the Europa League round of 16, leading to his absence ever since, is the main reason Arsenal lost momentum and lost the league title race.

The Ivorian insinuated Arsenal were over depending on Saliba’s services, saying on Ladbrokes Fanzone, “The main problem with this team was what happened when one of the key members of the side was absent; there was a real difference to the starting line-up. For the first few months, everything was good; everyone was fit and playing well, but things got worse as the season went on, and the obvious big miss was, of course, William Saliba. They lost him, and things just didn’t look the same. Arsenal were almost lost on the pitch without him. That lack of strength is a key reason they lost the title race.”

Even if Saliba returns ahead of next season, he needs a capable backup, and Bayer Leverkusen’s centre-back, Edmond Tapsoba, who’s been linked, could be that.

Regardless, despite Arsenal failing to win the Premier League title in a season many believe they should have won, Eboue claims that for the last 20 years, this has been the best Arsenal season ever, saying, “This season, for Arsenal, was probably their best in 20 years—they were the best team in the league for so long, but regardless of how things worked out, this is Arsenal’s best team since they last won the title. Arsenal is in my blood; it’s as simple as this. Every week, I sit in front of my TV, and I’m watching them.”

We may well have had the best team since the Invincibles, but would that great team have fallen apart because just one important player was missing, like we did? Or do you think there were other factors as well?

Darren N

Video – Alfie and Rob are back for the summer transfer window
Here is their first analysis of the summer, where Alfie and Rob discuss and predict every single possible Arsenal incoming and outgoing this summer, including fees and potential destinations for outgoings.

CALLING ALL ARSENAL FANS! Anyone who would like to contribute an Article or Video opinion piece on JustArsenal, please contact us through this link

Tags Eboue William Saliba


Add a Comment
  1. If 1 EPL debutant getting injured is the cause then that means we have built an extremely fragile team!

    The actual reason is lack of development of the squad players

  2. I think our lack of interchanging and hold-up plays in our front-line is the bigger reason of our collapse. Trossard and Martinelli were fluid in swapping their positions, whereas Jesus didn’t seem to be as smart and tactical in that aspect

    Another possible reason is other teams might’ve analyzed the way we play and we didn’t have a dominant CF to vary our attacking methods. It didn’t happen to Guardiola’s team, maybe because Haaland gave them more options with his hold-up play, aerial ability and flicks

    Odegaard and Jesus have been working hard to press, but the opposition can easily win the ball from our weak front-line pivot. Our midfielders and defenders seemed reluctant to pass the ball to Jesus, probably because they noticed that the opposition’s CBs could handle him easily

    We wouldn’t need a stronger CF if Arteta’s system is as good as Guardiola’s, but I believe we have to be more pragmatic next season

    1. You make a good point and I thought we were playing our most effective football with Nketiah up top. Jesus is a gifted footballer no doubt but plays as if he is still on the streets of Brazil. Eddie is a better striker imo

      1. Nketiah has his own strengths, but I think he is also too rigid at swapping positions with Martinelli. Maybe Arteta can try Nketiah or Trossard again for the CF role in our last game

        1. He could, but he won’t. I don’t rate Trossard either tbh. He’s just an off-brand Eden Hazard and slower than a fat lass with some heavy shopping.

          Honestly, next season I’d rather see Vlahovic, Jonathan David, Folarin Balogun, or Martinelli up front. Jesus is a brilliantly technical player but he has no positional discipline, which is a shame because he works so hard.

    2. You’re bang on the money about the “hold-up plays”. Whether they are or not, such indecisive football sends out all the wrong messages to our opponents. Arsenal fans, even Arteta, may see it as “probing”. The opposition sees it as an opportunity to press, and more often than not, that provides THEM with an opportunity. We need to play off one another like a fast moving rugby side and not wonder where we’re going to place the next ball.

    3. @gai that is a lie Arsenal failed to score in only 4 games this season.how does it mean our attack is not good enough, with what have seen this season our defense let us down because there were no better backup defenders in the team.
      My opinion was that MA should have move to a back 3 of
      A midfield of
      AND NKETHIA to rotate any of the front line.
      I believe this would have helped us to win the league perhaps.
      Because we’re scoring but couldn’t defend.

  3. I think the players have to take some blame too, almost everyone lost form. Saka, Partey, Zinchenko etc. They were no longer influential, costly mistakes by our most reliable performers in Ramsdale, Partey etc. It seemed we couldn’t cope with the pressure. Yes our defense did fall apart in the absence of Saliba. Our game management did fail us also, the Liverpool and the W/ham game.

    1. I think EPL proven players did take us to the next level last summer, there’s no denying that and that’s why I think we should continue to target those again this Summer.

      We need to bring in proven winners, we need to bring in more experience, we need to bring within the EPL, we UCL proven quality. We’ve a lot of players with potential and we need to our transfer policy a bit and focus less on bringing unknown quantity. Am not our transfer policy has been a failure but we need players who will take us to the next level

  4. Let me say three things.

    If Haarland had missed 10 games in the middle part of the seaso, where would the Oil Company have finished?

    The loss of Saliba went with the loss of Tomiyasu. That meant that Ben White could not take Saliba’s place, which had always been the intention if a centre back was injured. This caused the whole defence to malfunction.

    The other point and the main reason the Oil Company won, when key Arsenal players form dipped (which it does with all, Haarland hasn’t been anywhere near as prolific recently) the replacements were not near their level, so they (ie Saka) had to play. That lot, if for example Grealish dropped off had Mahrez, Foden. Right across the pitch they have the quality in depth (possibly through cheating) that we don’t have.

    1. “If Haarland had missed 10 games in the middle part of the seaso, where would the Oil Company have finished?”
      I think in exactly the same place. It took a while for haaland to click in their side, but they were always strong without him. I never saw them as reliant on him at all. De bruyne might have been a better example at certain points in the season.

      “the replacements were not near their level, so they (ie Saka) had to play.”
      That’s a dubious assumption. Nelson’s played pretty well with every opportunity and trossard was doing great until very recently (well after Saka’s loss of form. Nketiah didn’t even get a sniff once jesus returned, nor trossard in the CF position. How can we say they wouldn’t have been better? They could hardly have been less effective..

      1. It’s embarrassing to hear that a loss of a player led to such capitulation by a big club like Arsenal imo. Let’s face fact.
        You bought a replacement in winter in case of injury and you dumped him at the bench. We were made to understand going by the coach’s body language that he prioritise EPL over EL then, why risking your important players? Some of these crises would have been avoided if we had kept some players rather than send them on loan especially those utility players. I mean, there are some players that we kept that should be sent on loan.
        I think the major reason was the inability of our coach to be flexible in his tactical approach to games. I wonder if he ever studies his opponents before playing them because he kept on using the same tactics. Other teams are not morons. Ofcourse, they will study you and come up on how to handle you. So tbh, we did not loose because of injury on Saliba but because of poor judgements from the coach.

    2. Urgh, you just sound so bitter. If they are going guilty of financial irregularities then so be it but stop deflecting, it’s pitiful. We were 8 points clear and just bottled it, aided by misuse of the squad by Arteta. We have good players but he chose to persist with the likes of Fabio Vieira and constantly shun ESR. He also refused to rest Saka, or even take him off until the 85th minute, which is pointless. Pep has a better squad but he also uses them better. Get over it.

  5. Saliba was a massive loss. You could see that the steel had gone in the performances after his injury. Even Ramsdale was not as effective. Rob Holding just wasn’t in the same class. The fact is though, we need better depth to the squad. In every position we should have quality. If you want to beat City you simply need to be able to get as close as possible to having quality rotation options. We just didn’t have it where we needed it most.

  6. I dont think the absence of Saliba was the only reason but of course it was an important one. Actually, if Tomiyasu had not been injured, White could have partnered Gabriel in the majority of games that Saliba was not there thus solidifying our defence. I hope Arteta and Edu buy another top class defender to bolster our defence next season.

  7. Ok this is what went wrong.There was a number of tactical problems which caused the tired legs of the team to be further drained. When Zinchenko drifts inside Gabriel covers him by drifting to his left and filling the void. Partey is suppose to hold the midfield whilst Xhaka drops back to help Saliba in defence. Martindale is suppose to be supported up front by Tossard because he is not supported by Tierney. Saka who can normally take on the last defender with ease has to contend with two defenders marking him and is relying on Wright overlapping to create some space for him to drift inside to the middle and take on the last defender. So Xhaka had to support Holding more than he would normally with Saliba due to the class difference, and because of this and his aging form he ran out of steam. This intern left Partey isolated more on his own who then also ran out of steam. Holding was too slow to defend and release a quick pass due to his slow decision making ability more than his physical side of his game, so he slowed the overall pace of Arsenals game and with Xhaka and Partey now tired he had no support really from either of them. Martinelli lacked the support of either Tierney or Tossard and had to play with Zinchenko and Jesus instead. Wright was not fit enough to support Saka as he kept having to get back to aid the slow thinking Holding. So the tactics was part to blame together with the odd mistake from certain players that let us down. So going forward we need a class defender to cover for Saliba. We need Tossard to start the game as a false number 9 and use Jesus as a super sub to cover the front three. We need an energetic right back to support the double marking of Saka as Wright cannot do this for 90 minutes. Dhaka needs to be sold as he no longer losses the pace to get forward and drop back in the hole. Partey will be ok for another year of he gets more energetic support in midfield from Rice or Caicedo and is also subbed by one of them after 60 minutes if we are able to get both of them, one to play with the other to sub him. This can be interchangeable between the 3 of them. That’s it with Jesus and one other covering the front 3 for tiredness and injuries with the rest of the team as backup. So purchase needed in midfield are two players and one right back and one centre back and a slight tactical change

  8. “Martinelli lacked the support of either Tierney or Tossard and had to play with Zinchenko and Jesus instead”
    Earlier in the season everyone was saying the presence of jesus was vital in helping martinelli to play. It’s not the personnel that caused the problem exactly, but something changed in jesus after he returned from injury which affected the entire team.
    I think there’s a great deal of truth in what you’ve saying here, but it’s not quite the full picture. It’s very complicated – don’t think I could do better.

  9. In a nutshell we failed because neither our players nor our Manager are quite good enough.With judicious recruitment we can improve our playing squad, but whether our Manager has the ability to learn from his mistakes is open to doubt in my opinion.If he decides that ESR and KT are not good enough, which would seem to be the case given his aversion to playing them, he will merely add fuel to the fire as a number of Clubs will jump at the opportunity to take them off our hands and in so doing, strengthen their squads. Then of course, we will have the small matter of finding suitable replacements as we would no longer have a capable left back nor a young talent who can operate in a number of positions.Interesting times ahead!

    1. Patently clear that there is no Plan B and that fault lies with the coach / manager, not the players. He’s got one more season to sort it out. If that. Call me at Christmas.

    2. I’m not confident for next season, grandad. I think we are going to find ourselves struggling for top 4. Edu and Arteta have not convinced me that they have a recruitment strategy, any negotiating power, or ability to actually recruit the players the want, which is why we have to settle for ones like Drossard. And yes, I spelt it that way on purpose. He is pants.

      1. Saliba’s injury is a factor but it is not the only one. We have had injuries and absences affecting other key players as well which affects the dynamics of the team. We also have limited options as compared with some other teams. The squad does not have enough depth to cope with the loss of some players for long. The option that have been brought in have done well from time to time when making “cameo appearances” but their performances otherwise have been variable.
        Arteta has done a good job of getting as much out of this squad has he has this season but we need to continue the rebuilding.
        MC have had a huge financial advantage compared to most other teams. This allowed them to build a very strong team
        They then took it to the next level by their forages in the market and obtaining the services of one of the world’s best managers. This has allowed them to build a squad the likes of which we have rarely if ever seen before.
        Currently, MC effectively have 2 £50m pound players for every position. This gives the manager a huge advantage against all other. Their starting team in almost any match are favourites even when he rotates and he always has very high quality options on the bench.
        Arsenal will need a great transfer season to challenge again.

  10. If Saliba absence is that crucial factor that led to the big one getting away, then maybe Arsenal should indeed,’ give him that pisspot load of money he’s rumored to demanding.

    1. Take a guess why he’s in the position to demand it? Because just like the Saka situation, we allowed contracts to run down through poor contract management. We give players all the power!

      1. A don’t think he’s refusing to sign because of poor working conditions, but I read somewhere he keeps saying those loans spell in France was not neccessary and read somewhere his connections is demanding a pisspot load of money.

        But I honestly think money is the number one factors in most of these negotiations, a do think that’s the reason why Saka hadn’t sign ages ago and am not sure it was only the pen preventing Martinelli from signing on the dotted line.

  11. I think it was both Saliba’s injury and Tomi’s.had it only been Saliba,White could have played as a CB and Tomi as RB.

    1. The question is, why buying Kiwior since he can not replace the CB? Why sending some utility players (Niles) who would have covered in case of injuries on loans and kept back liabilities (Viera)? Why playing your best and important players in matches that are not your priority? Saliba had that injury in Europa match. It’s down to the coach poor judgements. I hope he will learn fast from his mistakes.

  12. Tgjs goes back to the article where Gallas said we needed to strengthen our defence before anything else – I agree with him completely.
    Until Saliba actually signs his contract, the club has to assume he is not going to.
    Unless Tierney gets assurance regarding his future, one has to assume he is also leaving.

    Before the w/c we had the second best PL defence, so I think it was our defence, not the players but the circumstances surrounding them, that was the main reason for us falling at the last hurdle.

  13. I wonder what difference it might have made if Saka scores that penalty or if Ramsdale had of went wide or if Partey was his usual self or if Zinchenko stood strong. The players have to stand up here and accept a lot of accountability. The manager too could have reacted differently and who knows maybe there was a better way. And a good some of it is down to the brilliance of City, they got better as the season went on as we were looking vulnerable. What difference would a fit Saliba have made, we’ll never know for sure

  14. We handed the Premiership title to Man City due to various factors – Saliba injury (cracking player) Saka missing a penalty. Ramsdale bad passing, Generally in the Liverpool, West Ham and Southampton games the players looked tired and very average. I cringed every time we played out from the back. To compete in the Premier League and Champions League we need at least five top quality players. ( I don’t think Declan Rice or Mason Mount will improve us.

  15. Agree with Grandad and escapepod303 overall. Arsenal led the league because of the consistent high performance efforts of all the players, including squad players and manager Mikel Arteta.
    The injuries to Saliba and Tomyasu were unfortunate, but it is difficult in a high intensity contact sport to not sustain injuries over a full season.
    The simple facts are that the performances of many players and the manager dropped off and the consistent high level performances attained to lead the League waned. Arsenal did not have the depth and strength within the squad to freshen things up. This was evident from the loss to Everton at Goodison Park onwards.
    Manchester City had the player resources and manager to take advantage of Arsenal’s drop in form due to their ability to consistently perform at a high level under pressure.

    1. Agreed. Man City was able to rotate their most demanding positions; fullbacks and wingers. That Bernardo Silva guy is a gem. Able to play LW, RW, CM, DM and also the inverted fullback this season. What a player.

  16. Saliba’s injury wasn’t the reason but his injury was the catalyst for the subsequent reasons. Saliba was not only defensively sound, his pace allowed the midfield to press high and his cool passing ability brought confidence and dynamism to the whole squad as well. Zinchenko suffered the most in Saliba’s absence. High line aggressive pressing allowed Arsenal to congest the field into the opponents half with total control and vigour. Case in point was the final 30mins of unbelievable total football against Bournemouth in the Emirates. Without Saliba, Ben White didn’t support Saka as much as before and though Saliba is a RCB, the whole left sided axis of Zinchenko, Xhaka and Martinelli fell apart in his absence. When you play with intensity only half the field, you tend not to tire easily compared to whole field intensity. That’s my humble analysis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Top Blog Sponsors
JustArsenal Top Ten UK Blogs