Arsenal legend Martin Keown has warned fans not to expect too much of William Saliba next season, worrying that there is an awful lot of pressure on the 19-year-old’s shoulders.
The French centre-back was signed last summer but immediately returned to Saint-Etienne on loan, where he has spent the season just gone.
The teenager has now joined up with Arsenal and is expected to make an impact in the Premier League this season after Arsneal’s defensive struggles in recent campaigns.
Saliba has only made 28 Ligue 1 appearances in his career, though, and doesn’t turn 20 till next March, so Keown feels fans must dial down the levels of expectation placed on the promising young defender.
There definitely is [pressure on Saliba],’ Keown told the Press Association. ‘It is one of those where I would have been happier if Arsenal had paid more money and brought him in straight at the start of last season.
‘There have long-been questions over the Arsenal defence and Saliba was expensive, but he is also young and has not played that many professional games. ‘It can’t be expected that he will walk straight into Arsenal, right into the team and be on it from the off.’
Mikel Arteta has a vast array of centre-backs at his disposal at the Emirates, although there are questions over the quality of all of them if Arsenal want to return to challenging for the Premier League title.
David Luiz, Sokratis, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, Shkodran Mustafi and Pablo Mari are all under contract at Arsenal, and despite the arrival of Saliba, Keown feels Arteta still wants another centre-back, but must start selling them first.
‘There are eight or nine central defenders contracted to the football club,’ said Keown. ‘So there is almost a team of central defenders and obviously Arteta can’t retain all of them so some of them should be moved out – even if some are currently injured now.
‘Arteta might not feel he can shift any of those defenders this summer but the board will probably tell him he has to get rid of players in that position if he wants to sign a new centre-back.’