Premier League • England

Former Chelsea man called out over ‘average’ ranking of Arsenal defender ‘among Europe’s best’

Gabriel, William Saliba, Arsenal, March 2023

Arsenal defenders Gabriel and William Saliba celebrate goal

Martin Keown and Rio Ferdinand have hit back at Marcel Desailly for his harsh ranking of Arsenal defender William Saliba, who’s “one of the best defenders in Europe”.

It took three years of being loaned back out after he signed from St Etienne for Saliba to break into the Gunners’ side. However, after doing so, he’s definitively made the centre-back position his own.

The Frenchman was one of Arsenal’s best players last season, and they felt his absence when he was unavailable at the back end of the campaign.

Indeed, Mikel Arteta’s side had been flying high at the top of the Premier League table, and looked to be in with a chance of winning the title, but Saliba missed the final 11 games with a back injury, and in that time, Arsenal recorded three losses – having only lost three times up to that point – as well as three draws on the spin, allowing Manchester City to steal the title.

That Saliba has been a vital member of the Arsenal side this season is highlighted by the fact he’s not missed a minute of Premier League or Champions League action, with the Gunners losing just twice so far.

Some feel he’s one of the best in the world in his position, but former Chelsea defender Desailly recently labelled him “average”, adding he’s “nothing extraordinary”.

Keown hits back at Desailly comments

Arsenal legend Keown has hit back at Desailly, describing his surprise that he can’t see Saliba’s qualities.

“I really can’t understand that. I think Saliba has the complete skillset,” Keown said on TNT Sports.

“I think he’s right now one of the best defenders in Europe. He has everything you need. His pace is phenomenal, his power, he reads the situation really well.

“We love having him at Arsenal because he’s physical and has everything you need. He’s aggressive and I think he has everything he needs, I am really surprised by that comment.”

Ferdinand brands Desailly casual

Former Manchester United defender Ferdinand also had his say on Desailly’s comments, claiming he may have only viewed Saliba casually.

“I don’t think Marcel Desailly has watched enough of him. He might have seen one game or half a game. But his [Saliba’s] consistency has been fantastic,” Ferdinand said.

“He’s the main man. He’s going to grow into a leader at this football club. That position demands concentration and minutes on the pitch. Saliba’s producing performances way beyond his years.”

Indeed, the defender is clearly a vital asset for Arsenal, and if they are to win a major trophy in the next couple of years, he’ll both surely play a huge part in that, and be more widely recognised if that happens.

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