Gabby Agbonlahor believes Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta should drop "absolutely dreadful" Ben White in favour of the returning William Saliba ahead of next season.
The England international was a mainstay in the Gunners defence alongside fellow centre-back Gabriel Magalhaes in the campaign just gone, following his £50million move from Brighton last summer. Despite many feeling White impressed during his debut year in north London, the 24-year-old endured a disastrous end to the season as he contributed to Arsenal's Champions League capitulation by putting through his own net in a costly 2-0 defeat to Newcastle at St James' Park.
Meanwhile, Marseille had no such trouble qualifying for Europe's elite club competition as they finished as Ligue 1 runners-up to Paris Saint-Germain – largely thanks to the contributions of Arsenal loanee Saliba. The centre-back scooped the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award for his efforts, prompting Arteta to assert his intentions to include the 21-year-old in his first-team plans next season.
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And former Aston Villa striker Agbonlahor believes the Gunners boss should go one better by making Saliba a regular starter. In his view, the Frenchman, who is yet to play a minute of Premier League football for Arsenal since signing in a £27m deal back in 2019, should usurp White in Arteta's starting XI as the English centre-back is "absolutely dreadful".
"I’ve watched Saliba a few times and he’s got that speed that you like to see in a centre-half," Agbonlahor told Football Insider. "He’s very good at making the right decision at the right time.
"Arsenal’s defence is nowhere near good enough to get top-four. For me, Ben White is very overrated, I watched him against Newcastle towards the end of the season and he was absolutely dreadful.
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"He lacks pace, he lacks aggression. Yes, he’s good on the ball but he’s not a defensive midfielder, he’s a centre-half. Arsenal need two centre-halves who are no nonsense and have both got speed.
"For me, Gabriel and Saliba would be my starters next season. With Ben White, I think Brighton are laughing at getting the fee they got for him because he’s not good enough.
"It’s a shame that Arsenal have wasted a lot of money again. It was the same with Pepe. Ben White was not needed and Saliba should start ahead of him."
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