Rio Ferdinand has urged fans of William Saliba to keep calm over the Arsenal defender’s progression, naming better players at his age in the past.
The 21-year-old has played every minute in the Premier League this season for the Gunners. Not only has the centre-back helped to keep two clean sheets, but he has chipped in with a goal and an assist too.
Saliba’s recent rise has also stood out more because of his initial struggles at Arsenal.
The Frenchman enjoyed spells with Saint-Etienne and Marseille but could not seemingly find his way into Mikel Arteta’s plans – until now.
But despite his impressive performances, former Man Utd defender Ferdinand has cooled talk of Saliba’s performances. Indeed, he named four past centre-backs who were better at the age of 21.
“Jonathan Woodgate, Sol Campbell, John Terry, trust me,” the pundit told Vibe with Five. “Woodgate, 100 percent, without any hesitation.
“Wes Brown at 21. He was winning Champions Leagues. He was in the treble-winning team, he played games in that team.”
Ferdinand’s recent comments are not the first time he has urged fans to keep calm over Saliba. Nevertheless, he was keen to do so again following Arsenal’s defeat to Man Utd at Old Trafford last weekend.
Saliba ‘failed the Rashford test’
“He failed the [Marcus] Rashford test,” Ferdinand said of the defender. “You don’t need to put this pressure on Saliba, he’s just five games in just let him play.
“You’re salivating over Saliba but he’s probably in the changing room thinking ‘I’ve got my DNA on two, maybe three, of the goals in some way shape or form.’ Some people might say three, I’m saying two.
“His fingerprints are on two of the goals and he’s sitting there with 0 points from the game.
“He’s playing offside. The manager’s not told him to do that. They didn’t play offside at any other time in that game.
“He’s on the halfway line thinking he’s last man and steps up over the halfway line to play offside when Ben White’s playing him onside.”
Arsenal man progressing nicely
Saliba has had to wait for his chance at Arsenal and therefore deserves his time in the sun.
After his first loan spell at Saint-Etienne, he arrived back in north London unsure if he would get his chance.
And as time went on, the chances of him getting a move away shrunk – until the transfer deadline actually passed.
But even then, Saliba did not feature heavily at all for Arsenal and had to bide his time in the ranks. That is, until he got to Nice and then Marseille.
In those spells, he took a number of swipes at Arsenal over his lack of minutes. And that confidence and arrogance has certainly helped him establish himself at Arsenal this season.
The defender will also look to play his part in the Europa League this season. The Gunners will have ambitions of winning the competition and so Saliba will look to impress there.
For now, though, Saliba will just be focused on getting more minutes after his recent struggles.