Sagna: Fearless Saliba can be a star for Arsenal

Comments()
William Saliba Saint-Etienne 2019-20
Getty Images
The Gunners signed the centre-back from Saint-Etienne in 2019 but he will not arrive until the end of the season having remained in France on loan

William Saliba has all the attributes needed to be a major success at Arsenal, according to Bacary Sagna.

Saliba signed for the Gunners last summer from Saint-Etienne in a £27 million ($34m) move, but as part of the deal he agreed to remain with the Ligue 1 side on loan this season.

He is due to link up with Arsenal at the end of the current campaign and when he does arrive, Sagna - who had a seven-year spell in north London and made 284 appearances - believes he has what it takes to go on to be a big hit.

“First he will need to adapt to English football,” the former Gunners star exclusively told Goal. “He is a big prospect for the future but Arsenal need him to perform as soon as he starts.

“He is aware of that probably, but he has a lot of qualities and he will learn fast. Hopefully he will achieve good things and become one of the best centre-backs in the league.

“He is very confident in defending, he is not afraid to defend one against one and most of the time he wins the duels, which is the best quality as a defender.

“You need some security, you need some presence and he has that.”

Saliba, who has just turned 19, has made 17 appearances in all competitions for Saint-Etienne this season having missed a large chunk of the campaign with a broken foot.

But in the build up to the coronavirus pandemic which has seen football suspended across the globe, he had returned to full fitness and was playing regularly.

Bacary Sagna Arsenal

And Sagna - who is currently a free agent and living in Montreal while he applies for Canadian citizenship - has been keeping a close eye on his progress ahead of his looming switch to the Emirates.

The 37-year-old said: “For him, staying in the French league after signing for Arsenal was the best decision he could make because he knew he was going to change to a bigger club, but he knew he had to improve his performances.

“It was like a test, he had to step up his game during this season and the last game I watched of him was amazing. I analysed him as an Arsenal fan and he did very well.”

Expectation is high ahead of Saliba’s arrival, with Arsenal fans hoping the young centre-back can solve the defensive problems which have plagued their side in recent campaigns.

But head coach Mikel Arteta will no doubt attempt to shield the teenager from the pressure that will come from such a big-money move and allow him time to adjust to his new surroundings in the Premier League.

Sagna, however, points to another one of his countrymen as proof that talented youngsters do not always need to be held back.

Article continues below

"Someone who has always said don’t speak about my age is Kylian Mbappe,” said the former France international. “When he started saying this he was 19 and now he’s one of the best strikers in the world.

“If he [Saliba] believes he can be as good as Van Dijk, he’s probably been watching his games and analysing them. It’s about hard work.

“If you want to be the best at the back, it’s all about work and belief."

Close