Former coach likens Arsenal youngster to Van Dijk and Varane

Former youth coach Jean-Luc Vannuchi has likened Arsenal youngster William Saliba to Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane.

There have been plenty of question marks over the Arsenal backline, which has shipped on average over 40 more goals across the past three Premier League seasons than their traditional top-six rivals.

Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery and now Mikel Arteta have been tasked with addressing the issue and the latter certainly is not spoilt for choice when all of his defenders are fit.

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But plenty of hope is being placed on Saliba – a £27million signing from Saint-Etienne last summer.

As part of the deal, the 19-year-old remained on loan at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard last season before linking up with his new club.

A number of injuries and the Ligue 1 season being curtailed by the coronavirus outbreak meant he played just 12 league games during the 2019/20 campaign and missed the Coupe de France final following a disagreement between the clubs on his treatment and training schedule.

However, Vannuchi has again boosted expectations of the teenager by revealing his early expectations of the centre-back.

“My first impression was that this was the biggest man of his generation,” Vannuchi told The Daily Telegraph. “The difference between him and the other players was massive.

“When he took the ball and ran into midfield, no one could stop him. He was like a monster compared to the others. When he played with St-Etienne it looked normal for him, even though he was so young.”

Not only that, but Vannuchi has seen similarities between Saliba and two of the world’s best defenders.

“A mix of the two styles,” Vannuchi added. “With Varane because of his speed and power, and with Van Dijk it is the interceptions, the positioning on the pitch.”


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