William Saliba and Oleksandr Zinchenko both look in line to start for Arsenal in Premier League opener as Mikel Arteta hints at line-up

William Saliba and Oleksandr Zinchenko could both be in line for their first Premier League starts of the season in opener against Crystal Palace (Image: Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC & Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The first game of the Premier League season is just 11 days away and the excitement has grown exponentially since the US tour showed just how good this Arsenal side can be. Three wins, nine goals and some star performances from new faces have raised the bar.

Arsenal lost 3-0 to Crystal Palace at the end of last season, a result which led to two successive defeats to Brighton and Southampton. These games ultimately would cost the Gunners Champions League qualification.

Although the match at Selhurst Park comes substantially earlier than last season, it is by no means less important. Ensuring a positive result in the form of a victory is taken will be key to building up that momentum.

Working out the starting 11 from what Mikel Arteta was using across pre-season might have been a slight challenge in some departments. However, his selection against Chelsea was telling. Especially with the defence. He was asked post-match about the defensive choices. He referenced the injuries they currently have and that could be crucial in his team selection on August 5.

“At the moment [Kieran] Tierney and [Takehiro] Tomiyasu are not fit, we have other options, Arteta said. “But I think it was good to try different things, to build some relationships in big matches, and I’m happy with the way they played.”

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The defence was made up of Ben White at right-back, William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes in the middle with new boy Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back. This had a balance to it and the profiles of the quartet suited one another. Aaron Ramsdale between the sticks appeared to find his distribution again, something which had waned in the final weeks and months of last season.

Saliba continued to stand out and it had been thought he and White would compete for a place. Now, there’s potential for the pair to play together.

“I am really pleased to see the way [Saliba] is playing, the way he has adapted to the team, the maturity that he’s shown at 21 years old, carry on doing it,” Arteta replied. “We will keep developing him, he has huge potential, he is already a top player, and we have to make him even better.”

What a turnaround from an outside perspective. It had looked for so long like Saliba’s future might lay elsewhere, but there has been confidence internally that this would not be the case and now it is being proven.

Saliba starting the first Premier League game of the season alongside Gabriel is something fans have been waiting nearly two years for. From the words of the manager though, it appears this could indeed become a reality.