William Saliba has “unbelievable talent and potential” but the Arsenal star has been warned that “the second year’s always the hardest”.
Saliba only made his first-team debut for Arsenal at the start of this season despite being signed by the Gunners in the summer of 2019.
And he’s earned widespread praise for his displays at the heart of Mikel Arteta’s defence alongside Gabriel Magalhaes, looking as though he’s been playing in the Premier League for years despite being just 22 years old.
But Anton Ferdinand, speaking on brother Rio’s YouTube channel, has warned Saliba about a second season syndrome as in the first year “the respect levels aren’t really there”.
“Do you know what? On Saliba, I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s got next year. The only reason why I say it, I know how hard the second year is,” he told Rio Ferdinand’s YouTube channel.
“First year, adrenaline, people don’t really know you, people don’t really know how you play. The respect levels aren’t really there. The second year’s always the hardest.
“Listen, I believe he’s got tremendous and unbelievable talent and potential. But until you see them in the second year, you don’t know whether they’re going to be tops or not in my opinion.”
Saliba has been critical to Arsenal’s title challenge this season, and Paul Merson reckons their hopes of beating Manchester City to the Premier League were gone the moment the Frenchman picked up his injury.
“As soon as he came out of the team, that’s when Arsenal’s title challenge came to an end and they started conceding goals left, right and centre,” Merson said.
“Until then they looked so solid. And he was a big part of that. The difference in Arsenal without him proves how important he has been.”
Arsenal conceded 25 goals in 27 Premier League games before Saliba’s injury and 14 in eight since, with replacement Rob Holding bearing the brunt of much of the criticism for their instability at the back.