William Gallas is “worried” that William Saliba’s development at Arsenal will be stunted unless he plays next to a more experienced defender.
Saliba, who has had numerous loan spells away from the club, has become a key part of Mikel Arteta’s starting XI this campaign after impressing in their first seven Premier League matches.
The France international has even contributed two goals for the club, striking up a good partnership with Gabriel Magalhaes in the centre of defence.
Their performances at the back have helped Arsenal win six of their opening seven Premier League matches as they head into Saturday’s north London derby on top of the table.
However, former Arsenal defender Gallas thinks Saliba could struggle to develop further playing alongside Gabriel with the 24-year-old Brazilian lacking the experience to help him improve his game.
“William Saliba has the same style as Rio Ferdinand,” Gallas told Genting Casino.
“When you see Saliba and how he plays, and when you compare with Rio when he was young, I think they are similar.
“But it’s always the same problem, who is going to be next to you to learn? He’s still young and at this age you need to learn and you need to have the right players next to you.
“That’s why I said it’s very important when you play centre-back, you need to have experienced players you can learn from.
“At the moment Saliba doesn’t have anyone. When I talk about experienced players, I’m talking about top-class defenders. That’s why I’m a little bit worried for him.
“If he wants to go to another level he needs to be next to top class defenders. If we speak about John Terry, who was next to him? Marcel Desailly. Rio Ferdinand? He was next to Vidic, or I’m not sure who before that.
“All the defenders, they learned from someone. Nesta, he was next to Maldini. So for defenders to go to the next level you need that. When he turns 25, 26, it will be his turn to lead the defensive line and he will play with young players who will learn from him.
“For example Fofana, he has a great opportunity to learn a lot from Thiago Silva.”
Arsenal legend David Seaman has also been impressed by Saliba this season and admits the 21-year-old “really shocked” him.
Speaking to the Daily Express, Seaman said: “It’s incredible what he’s been doing. Saliba has really shocked me because it just shows you how going out on loan works. He’s been out on loan for a few seasons, got really good experience and when you watch him now, you think he must be about 27 because he looks so confident.”