William Saliba wins Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang battle to stop Chelsea striker haunting Arsenal in derby triumph

 (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

All the talk before this game was about how Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could return to haunt Arsenal, but William Saliba put pay to that.

Much has been made about Aubameyang since his summer move to Chelsea, which came just months after he had left Arsenal for Barcelona.

A promo video for BT Sport ahead of this derby at Stamford Bridge only stoked the flames and, when Aubameyang was named in the starting XI, you could sense what may follow.

Instead, though, it was Saliba who shone brightest on a dark and rainy lunchtime at Stamford Bridge, underlining just how impressive he has been since returning to Arsenal this summer.

The Frenchman was a class above against Chelsea, playing with a level of composure way beyond that of a 21-year-old.

Both in and out of possession, Saliba exuded calm and the fact Aubameyang was hooked around an hour into this game summed up his dominance.

In fact, dominance summed up the whole of Arsenal’s performance. The final score was only 1-0, thanks to Gabriel Magalhaes’ second-half goal, but Arteta’s side had the better of the match and finished it with 56 per cent possession.

It was a clear sign of how much Arteta values Oleksandr Zinchenko’s role in this Arsenal team that he immediately restored the Ukrainian to the XI after his return from injury, and he helped them control the game.

Zinchenko has been out since the start of October with a recurring calf problem, but he was thrown straight back into the team here at Stamford Bridge.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

And it was easy to see why as right from the off the former Manchester City mqn tucked into midfield and helped Arsenal dominate the game.

The Gunners certainly had the better of the first-half, zipping the ball around and playing with the kind of courage they lacked previously in away games against conventional ‘Big Six’ sides.

They went close through Ben White and Gabriel Martinelli, however it was Gabriel Jesus who had the best chance. Arsenal started a move in their own box and worked it all the way up the pitch, with Jesus just inches away from heading home Martinelli’s cross.

Chelsea, in contrast, created very little, and they only really looked a threat on the counter, when Kai Havertz got in behind down the right.

Graham Potter tried to make changes after the break, with Chelsea shifting to more of a 4-2-3-1, but Arsenal continued to dominate.

Thomas Partey, who was excellent in the heart of midfield, went close with a header and Jesus drew a good save from Mendy.

The latter of those chances earned Arsenal a corner and, when Saka whipped it in, the ball evaded everyone and Gabriel was able to tap home. It was no more than Arsenal deserved and they continued to press forward in search of a killer, second goal.

That never came but it didn’t matter as Arsenal’s defence, particularly Saliba, held firm to claim the win that sends Arsenal back to the top of the Premier League.