Arteta hails Saliba as Gunners expect 'huge battle' against Lens
Mikel Arteta has praised Arsenal centre-back William Saliba ahead of their Champions League clash against Lens.
The Gunners made a stunning return to the competition by beating PSV 4-0 at the Emirates, with the Frenchman playing a key role in keeping a clean sheet.
Ahead of a second round of Champions League fixtures, the Arsenal manager marvelled at Saliba's evolution since joining the club.
The Basque boss said: "When you look how he's developing, his role in the team, the level and consistency he's shown in the last year or so, it's remarkable. I don't think you will find a lot of centre-backs doing what he's doing.
"Credit to the players around him as well, the way they are guiding him, protecting him, inspiring him.
"And then with the qualities he has, the presence, the physicality and composure to be a leader in the back line for a big club like us, it's a huge compliment."
Lens finished runners-up in Ligue 1 last season but have struggled to build on their success as they currently sit in 15th of the French top flight.
A number of major departures — including Lois Openda and Seko Fofana — have seen the side fail to kick into gear, although Arteta is still expecting a tough test at the Estadio Bollaert-Delelis.
He said: "I was really impressed with what they did last year. It's incredible to finish in that position, and the way they did it, the form they had at home.
"This season they have been really unlucky with some results. I don't know how they don’t have more points, so we expect a huge battle tomorrow.
"We are more than aware of it. They are a really good side and we have a huge test ahead of us tomorrow."