Arsenal fans won’t like Man Utd icon Rio Ferdinand’s claim about William Saliba

Rio Ferdinand speaking during a video call
Rio Ferdinand had another name in mind when discussing who the best defender in the Premier League has been this season -Credit:YouTube/Vibe with Five

Rio Ferdinand has offered a surprising take on William Saliba's status as the Premier League's top defender, which may not sit well with Arsenal fans.

Despite the centre-back's man-of-the-match performance in their 1-0 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford on May 12, Ferdinand is unconvinced by the hype surrounding the Frenchman's reputation as the league's best, reports the Mirror.

The 23-year-old centre-back has been pivotal for Arsenal since his breakthrough last season, quickly becoming a defensive stalwart. While Arsenal fans have lauded him, Ferdinand expressed his doubts during an episode of Vibe with FIVE when co-host Joel Beya hailed Saliba as the top defender in English football.

Ferdinand countered Beya's assertion, saying: "I don't think Saliba's been the best Arsenal defender this season, to say he's the best in the league is a stretch I think, [Virgil] van Dijk's been back to somewhere near his best by the way."

The Manchester United legend acknowledged the formidable partnership between Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes, commending their synergy. "As a pair, Saliba and Gabriel have been flawless this year, the best pair out there by a mile," Ferdinand remarked.

He then gave the nod to Gabriel over Saliba based on individual performances: "But this year as an individual, I think Gabriel's probably been slightly above Saliba I'll say in the games that I've seen anyways.

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"I think Saliba is better on the eye, he's a more cleaner and composed defender 100%, it's just what you like to see sometimes, I think Gabriel's the more aggressive [and] combative [defender], wants the 1v1 duels, goes into challenges and comes out of it.

"He's one of those that wants contact all the time, and he looks really good doing that and I think this season he's been really good at that, [he's] won most of his duels and he hasn't had those kind of red mist moments or moments where he gives away a silly penalty or a silly foul inside the box which he did last year."

Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba have built a strong centre-back partnership under Mikel Arteta
Gabriel Magalhaes and William Saliba have been heralded as having the best centre-back partnership in the league -Credit:David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

However, despite acknowledging Saliba's tremendous abilities, he conceded that the ex-Saint-Etienne ace stumbled somewhat in the Champions League this term.

"That's the area I think he's improved massively this year whereas Saliba has got that coolness about him and sometimes you can just go through games because I think he's that good and I think that he's got a real calmness about his defending," said the former England skipper.

"The only games I've seen him play where I've said 'ooh that's not like Saliba' was the Champions League but I tell you one thing, for a defender, the Champions League is levels up concentration wise than the Premier League and in terms of strikers you're going to be playing against, most of the time you can't make a mistake and get away with it with pace."