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Arsenal have needed a centre-half for a while and Saliba is ready to step up – Puel

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Williams Saliba

William Saliba is “ready” to become a star at Arsenal, says Saint-Etienne boss Claude Puel, with the Gunners considered to have been in need of a reliable option at centre-half “for some time”.

The north London outfit have continued to bolster their ranks in that department during recent windows, but little value has been found.

Questions are already being asked of how long David Luiz will stick around at Emirates Stadium, with the experienced Brazilian having only been snapped up from Chelsea in 2019. The likes of Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi have also failed to convince when given regular game time, while Calum Chambers has endured form and fitness issues.

Arsenal believe they have found a solution to their problems in Saliba, after a £27 million ($33m) deal for the highly-rated 19-year-old was put in place last summer.

The talented teenager was allowed to remain in his native France for another year, with Saint-Etienne benefitting from his ongoing development.

Ligue 1 has been brought to a premature conclusion in 2019-20, though, with Saliba now freed to link up with Arsenal. He is expected to make a big impact in England, despite his tender years and relative lack of experience, with Puel among those tipping him for the top.

The former Southampton and Leicester boss told The Athletic of a hot prospect he has worked with in France: “He is ready.

“He is a fantastic player. He is a young player but with a lot of maturity in his play. Also, in his life. He is a player with a good feeling and spirit. It will be hard for us without him but I think it is a fantastic opportunity for Arsenal.”

Puel added on the qualities that Saliba will add to Mikel Arteta’s squad: “I think they need a good centre-back and have done for some time, and I think William is the right player. I think he can play all the time in the first team at Arsenal.”

Saliba only has 32 senior appearances to his name, and one cap with the France U20 side, but tackling a Premier League challenge is not expected to pose any problems to a youngster on a steep learning curve.

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