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Martin Keown warns Arsenal fans not to heap pressure on William Saliba

PUBLISHED: 17:00 18 August 2020

Newcastle United's Miguel Almiron (right) and Saint Etienn's William Saliba battle for the ball during the Pre-Season match at St James' Park, Newcastle.

Newcastle United's Miguel Almiron (right) and Saint Etienn's William Saliba battle for the ball during the Pre-Season match at St James' Park, Newcastle.

PA Archive/PA Images

Former club defender Martin Keown believes there will be undue pressure on new signing William Saliba to solve Arsenal’s defensive frailties.

There have been plenty of question marks over the Arsenal backline, which has shipped on average over 40 more goals across the past three Premier League seasons than their traditional top-six rivals.

Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery and now Mikel Arteta have been tasked with addressing the issue and the latter certainly is not spoilt for choice when all of his defenders are fit.

But plenty of hope is being placed on Saliba - a £27million signing from Saint-Etienne last summer.

As part of the deal, the 19-year-old remained on loan at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard last season before linking up with his new club.

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A number of injuries and the Ligue 1 season being curtailed by the coronavirus outbreak meant he played just 12 league games during the 2019/20 campaign and missed the Coupe de France final following a disagreement between the clubs on his treatment and training schedule.

Still a teenager and with a total of 28 league appearances to his name, Keown feels too much may be expected from Saliba when he first pulls on an Arsenal shirt.

“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,” Keown said,

“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 have been linked with further defensive additions, but with the likes of Saliba, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, Pablo Mari, David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi - as well as Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac - all vying for spots in the Gunners’ defence when fit and available, Keown feels some of the current crop will need moving on before Arteta is allowed to add to his resources.


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