Owen Hargreaves is confident both William Saliba and Gabriel will turn out to be excellent signings but has issued a word of caution to Arsenal supporters, given neither player has any experience of Premier League football.
Arsenal conceded 48 goals in the English top flight last season and Mikel Arteta prioritised a move for a top-class centre-back at the start of the summer transfer window with a view to fixing the side’s leaky defence.
The Gunners agreed a £27 million deal with Lille for Gabriel at the start of the month and the 22-year-old Brazilian arrives with huge expectations on his shoulders after establishing himself as one of the top young defenders in Ligue 1.
Arteta has also has Saliba, 19, at his disposal after his return from Saint-Etienne and the Frenchman is expected to start this weekend as the north London giants kick off their campaign away to Fulham.
Former Manchester United and England midfielder Hargreaves was impressed with the defensive improvements made after Arteta took over the reins from Unai Emery last season but has urged fans to be patient with new signings Gabriel and Saliba.
‘I think they’ve started to show a different side already under Arteta. They started to compete more against the bigger teams,’ Hargreaves said on Optus Sport’s The Weekend Preview.
‘We saw it against Liverpool, we’ve seen it against Manchester City, we’ve seen them win one-off games where you wouldn’t have fancied them before so I think they’re harder to play against.
‘I think the biggest one is defensively. He’s signed a super player in Saliba, even though he’s young and Gabriel is another really good player. He’s competitive, he’s aggressive.
‘But the only problem is that these two guys that he’s signed don’t really know this division. Getting centre-backs to come to this league and adapt takes time.
‘Even for the great ones, we saw it with Nemanja Vidic even.
‘I think he’s trying to sort the defence out and maybe having David Luiz play in the middle of those guys which would work with those young guys.’
Gabriel is looking forward to playing alongside Saliba in Arsenal’s defence this season and believes the teenagers has all the necessary qualities to become a key player for the club.
‘I know Saliba is a talented young player and if he is joining Arsenal it is because of his quality,’ he told Arsenal’s official website.
‘We have a few friends in common and I did play against him before.
‘He is a great player and I am sure we will get along very well.’
The ex-Lille man is also excited to share a pitch with compatriot David Luiz, a player he idolised as a youngster.
‘For sure David is an example, he is a player I admire very much,’ Gabriel added.
‘I was always a big fan of him and everything he achieved.
‘I watched him since I was a kid, I played video games with his character and today it is a dream come true to be here with him and hopefully play next to him soon.’
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