Martin Keown thinks Arsenal made a error by allowing William Saliba to leave the Emirates Stadium on loan last summer.
The young Frenchman signed for the Gunners last summer in a £27m deal, only to be loaned back to St Etienne for the 2019/20 season.
The 18-year-old has since played 17 times for the Ligue 1 side, although he has had an injury-hit campaign, with Saliba not featuring for three months from early November to the end of January.
Keown told talkSPORT: “There’s an awful lot of work to be done in there [defence]. There was the defender from Saint-Etienne William Saliba who they paid £27million for but was loaned back again.
“I could’t quite work that out because now I’m being told he’s world-class. Never mind if he’s world-class, if he was Premier League class it would have been good enough because that was an area of concern.”
Meanwhile, a report on Wednesday claimed that David Luiz only signed a deal for an initial 12 months and not the two years reported at the time of his £8m move from Chelsea last summer.
Sky Sports added that the Brazilian will leave Arsenal this summer with Luiz ‘out of contract next month and no negotiations over a new deal planned’ – but Keown can understand Arsenal’s uncertainty over giving him a new deal.
Keown added: “David Luiz concerns me because if you’re going to pay £7m for him and give him £5m wages and he’s only going to be there for one season, I’m not sure about the wisdom of that.
“Is he a proper defender? Can he play in a back four? His best defending came when he was in a back three at Chelsea when they won the Premier League [in 2016/17].
“It’s the most crucial area which he [Mikel Arteta] has to get right. Holding’s been injured, it’s hard to judge him, probably deserves another opportunity. I think that Sokratis could be a useful defender but I can understand the uncertainty of giving David Luiz a new deal.
“Do they now start to be harsh and make those key decisions? If David Luiz isn’t the answer, then he has to go now. He doesn’t enjoy being in wide positions in the back four, he tends to bring people down and Mustafi, although Arteta has got a bit of a tune out of him but we know Mustafi isn’t quite at the level as well.
“You go to a football club, you have to make your mark and if it doesn’t happen you have to hold your hands up. I think both players will have to do that… I can’t see that being a long-term partnership in the Arsenal defence.”
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