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Saliba billed as a mix of Van Dijk and Varane as £27m defender prepares to begin Arsenal career

11:34 BST 24/08/2020
Raphael Varane William Saliba Virgil van Dijk
The highly-rated teenage centre-half has finally linked up with the Gunners and arrives in north London boasting a blossoming reputation

William Saliba has been billed as a mix of Raphael Varane and Virgil van Dijk as the talented teenager prepares to begin his spell at Arsenal.

The Gunners put a £27 million (€30m/$35m) deal for the youngster in place during the summer of 2019. He was allowed to spend another year on loan at Saint Etienne, with his development benefitting from an extended stint in his native France.

Saliba is now in north London and ready to show a Premier League audience why he is generating so much hype. Many are tipping him to make an immediate impact with the Gunners, who have been crying out for a reliable option at the heart of their defence.

Saliba’s former youth coach, Jean-Luc Vannuchi, expects the 19-year-old to thrive in England as he blends the skills of established stars at Real Madrid and Liverpool.

Vannuchi told The Telegraph: "A mix of the two styles. With Varane because of his speed and power, and with Van Dijk it is the interceptions, the positioning on the pitch."

Vannuchi is in no doubt that the Gunners will find value in the big money agreement that put in place for Saliba, with the hot prospect expected to reach the very top of the game.

"My first impression was that this was the biggest man of his generation," Vannuchi added on his experiences with the centre-half. "The difference between him and the other players was massive.

"When he took the ball and ran into midfield, no one could stop him. He was like a monster compared to the others. When he played with Saint-Etienne it looked normal for him, even though he was so young."

Saliba's good reputation could be a double-edged sword, however, with former Arsenal defender Martin Keown saying the player is already under pressure to perform.

Keown said in The Independent: “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.”

Arsenal are currently readying themselves for the 2020-21 campaign, with Mikel Arteta’s side having secured themselves European football by winning the FA Cup last season.

That success also means that they will be involved in the traditional curtain-raiser to the new campaign, with a Community Shield outing against Premier League champions Liverpool at Wembley on Saturday.