The Arsenal manager was widely criticized for his handling of the promising French centre-back but recent developments suggest the Spaniard knew what he was doing
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The 20-year-old could now realistically sport his country’s colors before donning the parent club’s red and white kit Arsenal, although he signed for the Gunners back in the summer of 2019. Led by Unai Emery At the time, Saliba’s arrival in the Emirates was followed by great excitement and anticipation, although not fully justified just yet.
That’s not to say it’s the player’s fault. Arsenal’s handling of a talent as respected as Saliba has raised many question marks as the Frenchman nears the final leg of his third loan since joining Saint Etienne almost three years ago. It was always planned for Saliba to be immediately loaned back to his former side for the remainder of the 2019/20 season.
However, when Emery’s reign on the Emirates hot-seat ended in November 2019, Mikel Arteta was handed the reins in his place. The Spaniard is now known for his no-nonsense, disciplined approach and when the former Gunners midfielder makes a decision he sticks to it.
One of his first was deeming Saliba not quite ready for first-team action First League yes, much to the chagrin of arsenal The fan base is keen to see their £30m acquisition in action. Accepted Covid-19 The pandemic had ended the season in Ligue 1 prematurely, in addition to some stubborn injuries, Saliba did not play enough in the eyes of Arteta in Saint-Etienne.
As a result, the decision was made to give Saliba another season away from the club – but a spectacular failure by Arsenal saw the defender waste the first half of the 2020/21 campaign in north London without significant competition. Technical director Edu had failed to find another club to loan Saliba to, while Arteta had failed to register the defender in their Premier League or Europa League squads.
Instead, the 20-year-old enjoyed the occasional spell for Arsenal U-23 side in the Papa John’s Trophy – his only first-team experience outside of training at London Colney came in the form of a pre-season friendly at MK Dons. The sad saga saw Saliba risk the wrath of Arteta when he suggested he was “locked up” in the Emirates.
comment on one Instagram Post from Gunners teammate Matteo Guendouzi, who was then on loan at Hertha Berlin, Saliba was jokingly dismissed by Nicolas Pepe, who wrote: “It’s your problem, you comment on everything.” The defense attorney shot back, “Hahaha, I send all the best to the brother who was locked up like me.”
Many interpreted the comment as a not-so-subtle dig at Arteta, who had also exiled Guendouzi for a series of disciplinary violations. In December 2020, the Arsenal boss said of Saliba: “To be fair he’s improved massively over the past few months. It’s a really difficult situation for him.
“But as I mentioned we charted a path for him but a lot of things have happened to him in his personal life and professionally as well.” The January 2021 transfer window finally came and a second loan away from north London has since been approved Saliba spent the remainder of this season at OGC Nice.
There, Saliba again appeared to be at odds publicly with his parents’ club, blaming Arteta for not giving him a chance. “I was waiting for him to give me a chance but football is like that,” he said said RMC Sports. “When I came to Arsenal the league was looking very good, so I turned up for training and wanted to train on my own to show the manager I was ready.
“It hurt me, it hit me,” Saliba later told TF1. “I don’t think I left too soon. When you feel ready, you must go. I don’t think I left too soon. These things happen. I believe in myself. Honestly, if you had told me a year ago, I honestly wouldn’t have believed you.
“I really, really, really didn’t think I was going to be transferred for £30m and that I’d arrive where people expected a lot from me and the fans loved me and you find yourself in the reserves” I’m playing zero, zero nothing in the Europa League or the league. I was in the squad once in the League Cup.”
After being voted Ligue 1 Team of the Week on multiple occasions with Nice, Arsenal fans could hardly believe it when Saliba was allowed to join his home country on a third loan for the whole of 2021/22, plying his trade for Marseille. The 10-time Ligue 1 champions have undoubtedly seen the best form of Saliba’s career to date.
Not only has his talent helped put Marseille second in the Ligue 1 table as well as shared second-best defensive records in the whole division, but it’s a loan spell that has so far elapsed without any clear digging at Arsenal or Arteta. On the contrary, Saliba actually claimed the situation at the Emirates “felt good”.
“You have to struggle in a career. We have to take that as a lesson to move forward. It gave me a little shock to say, ‘You’re nobody!’ You can be bought for €30m, come to a club and we’ll put you aside,” he admitted. “I took that experience positively. I feed on it. I know what it’s like not to play for six months. Today I want to play every game.
“It kickstarts the ideas again. Before I arrived at Arsenal I said to myself, ‘Who am I going to play with?’ And then you’re not even in the Premier League group. It gives you a good slap, it feels good. It brings you back to reality.” Of course, the reality now for Saliba is that he is on the verge of becoming a senior France international in what would be the latest improvement on an already glittering reputation.
Before moving to the south of France for the season, Arteta was optimistic about Saliba’s latest loan deal: “He will come back for the pre-season and will be with us. Hopefully he’ll come back after a few games, his improvement in performance and development are going in the right direction, that’s why we made our decision.
“I know sometimes it’s hard to explain or understand, after the money the club spent to sign him, to bring him out on loan. “But a lot has happened to him, he’s a long-time player for us and. ” we have to protect him too. And giving him three or four games is not enough.
“For him he needs a lot more than that because what has happened in the last 18 months has also gone through some personal issues that we must try to help him with and stay with him as close as possible. And now he has to play, play and play and also enjoy his profession. And I think we’ve found the right club for that in him. He loves going there now. Hopefully he can enjoy his football and be ready for us next season.”
Saliba looks more ready than ever. In France, he is often referred to as “Mbappe the defender”. The 20-year-old is growing from strength to strength for both club and country. Should the season end as Arteta would like, the young centre-back will return to a Champions League Association.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/arsenal-saliba-arteta-france-selection-26517599 Mikel Arteta's controversial plan that angered William Saliba proves he was right all along