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Arsenal news: William Saliba defends Gunners star after criticism as duo hailed ‘best in Europe’

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Jurgen Klopp prediction proven right as Arsenal duo hailed ‘best in Europe’ by Sporting CP star

Arsenal head back to the Emirates Stadium with plenty of positives following their 2-2 draw in the Europa League last-16 first-leg clash against Sporting CP. The Gunners took the lead through William Saliba before Granit Xhaka’s deflected cross was turned into the back of the net to equalise in the second half after Sporting took a 2-1 lead.

Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka both started in attack alongside Reiss Nelson, who was the hero in the comeback win against Bournemouth at the weekend, after Gabriel Jesus, Leandro Trossard, Eddie Nketiah and Martin Odeegard were all ruled out of the clash in Portugal. Martinelli and Saka have proven to be crucial players for Mikel Arteta this season, each scoring 11 times to sit joint top of the club’s scoring charts.

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The two youngsters have long been touted for big things, but this year they have both truly unlocked their potential. Arsenal have already secured the long-term future of Martinelli at the Emirates Stadium after the Brazilian winger signed a new long-term deal earlier this season.

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The Gunners remain confident that Saka will put pen to paper on a bumper new contract ahead of next season despite interest from Liverpool and Manchester City. Jurgen Klopp is among those to greatly admire Martinelli and Saka.

William Saliba defends Arsenal star after heavy criticism over key moment during Sporting draw

William Saliba has defended Arsenal teammate Jakub Kiwior after the January signing was criticised for his performance in the 2-2 draw against Sporting CP. Kiwior completed a £21million move from Spezia to the Emirates Stadium and made his full Gunners debut against Sporting on Thursday night.

The Polish centre-back has impressed for Arsenal Under-21s despite finding it hard to break into the first team given the strong parternship between Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes. Kiwior was criticised for his role in Sporting’s equaliser in the first half after he appeared to duck away from the ball, allowing Goncalo Inacio to head home for the hosts.

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Despite a shaky debut for the Gunners, Kiwior’s centre-back partner has now defended him with Saliba admitting he thought the young Polish defender played well. “His first game, he played well and for me I play the first time with him and we did well,” said Saliba.

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Mikel Arteta told Arsenal star can’t be trusted after Europa League last-16 draw vs Sporting

Arsenal star Matt Turner has been slammed for his performance in the Europa League last-16 first-leg against Sporting CP by club icon Martin Keown. The Gunners goalkeeper was criticised for his role in both goals Sporting scored on Thursday night as Mikel Arteta’s side head into the second-leg level with the Portuguese outfit.

Arteta is aware of the defensive concerns facing his team at present as the Spaniard admitted: “We are conceding too many simple goals. We spoke about the importance of boxes, especially in a competition when you’re in or out.”

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Speaking on BT Sport at half-time, Keown said: “Really he’s killed everyone, because he’s started to come and then doesn’t. But [Jakub] Kiwior, too, he’s got to do a little bit more than that.

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“I’m thinking that I’m going to have to go and head things because I can’t necessarily trust him. There he has come and win it and be dominant and he didn’t do it.”

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