Thoughts on William Saliba and his Arsenal Future
After another stellar campaign that saw him rightfully earn the Young Player of the Year award for his stint with Marseille in Ligue Un, William Saliba had a major decision to make concerning his future, especially after breaking in to the France squad, with a World Cup in Qatar around the corner. With two years left on his contract, he could easily had agitated to remain in France, like the Hector Bellerin’s situation at Real Betis, where he would have continued to feature regularly for Olympique Marseille (made 52 apps last season) and strengthened his chance of sealing his place in the national team. Instead, William Saliba has pledged his future to Arsenal,
‘I belong to Arsenal, I still have two years left.
‘I will be back with Arsenal. I have played zero matches and I still want to show them my true face and have the chance to play for these fans and this great club.
‘But it doesn’t just depend on me. In any case, to leave like this, would be a shame.’
At Arsenal, the center back position has been light, with only Gabriel and Ben White forming a fledgling partnership with Rob Holding providing some cover. This is a far cry from how overloaded the center back position used to be with the likes of Calum Chambers, Skhodran Mustafi, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Pablo Mari, Rob Holding, Dinos Mavropanos and Rob Holding all in the club when Mikel Arteta arrived. It has been quite a clear out.
Saliba comes into the team next season with just three players to contend with – White, Gabriel and Holding – players that have had their own phases of inconsistency in the recently concluded campaign. Yes, Gabriel stands out with the amount of goals he scored, as well as some strong performances but he also had games were he was badly exposed and had a rush of blood to the head. Case in point – Man City (home), Crystal Palace (away). Man United (home), just to mention a few. White also forged a good partnership with Gabriel in his debut campaign, and had his fair share of errors as well. Holding, would pretty much be a squad player at best, always coming to the pitch to protect a lead, but Arsenal fans wouldn’t be quick to forget his rashness in the North London Derby (away).
Mikel Arteta is a manager that rewards players that perform up to the required standards, and a player like Saliba can see himself playing consistently if he proves he can do the job better than the current center backs in the club. Hell, he was a nominee for Young player of the Year in just half a season at Nice and eventually won the Young Player of the Year award in a full season with Marseille. I’d admit that I don’t want the Ligue Un regularly, but Saliba has done well for himself in his spells at France, even to the point he was recognized by the national team gaffer to feature for Les Bleus at just 21.
As an Arsenal fan, I am chomping to bits at the prospect of finally seeing the lad we coughed out 30 million quid when he was just 18, with so much talk of how much potential he had, with the ability to lead the line at the back for years to come. Three loan spells at St. Etienne, OGC Nice and Marseille later, William Saliba has finally ‘come of age’ and his manager, Mikel Arteta, shares the same sentiments,
“We made the right decision. He has to come back. He has the experience necessary to be competitive with us.”
“If he had stayed with us this year, with one Premier League match a week, with Ben White and Gabriel, he wouldn’t have had half the playing time he had with Marseille, that’s for sure.
“For his growth and what he can do next season that wouldn’t have been good. William wasn’t with us because he wouldn’t have had the playing time to gain experience. That’s it, there’s nothing else.”
With the Gunners looking to strengthen the squad this summer ahead of a grueling Premier League and Europa League campaign, quality players like Saliba returning to the squad are highly welcome, and we will finally get the chance to see him strut his stuff in the famous Red and White.
Bonus Reading: The Curious Case of William Saliba
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