Arsenal star lauded by Manchester United and Liverpool legends keen to build on impressive Premier League debut

The defender played a lead role as the Gunners got their Premier League season off to a winning start.

Arsenal star William Saliba is hoping to build on an impressive performance on his long-awaited Premier League debut.

It is just over three years since the young French centre-back joined the Gunners in a £27million deal from Ligue 1 club Saint Etienne.

Saliba immediately returned to his former club on a season-long loan deal and made similar moves to Nice and Marseille over the following two seasons.

However, he was finally handed a chance to impress in the Premier League on Friday night when Mikel Arteta named the 21-year-old centre-back in his starting lineup for the season opener at Crystal Palace.

Saliba repaid the Spaniard’s faith with an accomplished display and was named as man of the match  by former Liverpool star Jamie Carragher in the aftermath of the 2-0 win.

After the game, the five-times capped France international reflected on his Premier League bow and looked forward to what lies ahead for him and his club.

“It was like this because it was the first game, we knew it would be hard here,” he told Sky Sports.

“So we stayed compact and strong and it’s good for the team.

“It is a long time I have been waiting for this moment.  I am so happy to start my first game with a win and a clean sheet.

“It helped me to spend two or three years on loan in France because I am young and now I am back.  I hope we can have a good season.”

Saliba’s display also met the approval of Carragher’s fellow Sky Sports pundit, Gary Neville.

The former England right-back believes the young Frenchman has benefitted from his loan stints with the Ligue 1 trio and compared the defender to his former Manchester United team-mate Rio Ferdinand.

“I think the most important thing for young players is to play football,” explained Neville.

“They are stuck in-between the first-team and reserves, they don’t get the football, he (Saliba) has got football inside him.

“I was massively impressed by him and he reminds me of a young Rio Ferdinand.  He will get stronger, his body will become more coordinated and he’s still a young centre-back at 21.”