Neville, Carra wax lyrical about Arsenal debutant, compare 21-year-old to Man Utd legend

Date published: Saturday 6th August 2022 9:34 - Jason Soutar

Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher

Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher were both full of praise for Arsenal defender William Saliba after his “really good” debut against Crystal Palace.

The Gunners kicked off their Premier League campaign with a superb 2-0 victory at Selhurst Park on Friday night.


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This performance was a huge improvement on last season’s opener at Brentford, where they were played off the park in a 2-0 defeat.

There is a huge amount of optimism at Arsenal this campaign after adding Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Fabio Vieira in the summer transfer market.

One player who feels like a new signing is Saliba, who was given his competitive debut for the club on Friday despite the fact he was signed from Saint-Etienne three years ago.

He has spent time on loan in France for the last two-and-a-half seasons and enjoyed a particularly fruitful spell with Marseille in 2021/22.

The 21-year-old was named Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year and has come back to Arsenal ready to compete for a starting berth.

With Takehiro Tomiyasu not ready to start against Palace, Benjamin White was moved to right-back, with Saliba operating next to Gabriel in the heart of the defence.

It was a walk in the park for Saliba, who Sky named as their player of the match after a stellar performance in a very tricky fixture.

Pundits Carragher and Neville were both very impressed with the young Frenchman, with the latter comparing him to his former teammate, Rio Ferdinand.

Neville said (quotes via Metro): “I was massively impressed with Saliba. He actually reminded me of a young Rio Ferdinand.”

High praise indeed. Ferdinand won six Premier League titles, one Champions League and three League Cups in his career and is regarded as one of the best centre-back’s of all time.

Neville continued: “He’s such a young defender at 21. Getting through that second half, when Arsenal weren’t at their best, would have been the most pleasing thing for Mikel Arteta.

“Crystal Palace away, that’s a tough challenge and that’s a big performance from Saliba.”

Carragher added: “I thought he was really good. He didn’t have much to do in the first half but there was one long ball where he just came across, the way he dealt with it… he looked the business, he looked the part.

“At such a young age, the way he dealt with that second half… he looked the real deal.

“Bringing him in certainly adds something because you always thought that was a weakness for Arsenal. His physicality will certainly help Arsenal in those away games.”

Saliba spoke to Sky after the game, telling Geoff Shreeves: “We knew it would be hard here but we were strong and solid.

“I’ve waited a long time to make my debut and I’m happy to start with a clean sheet and a win. It’s important for confidence.”

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