William Saliba provides mature response to Arsenal future question

William Saliba is yet to make a senior Premier League appearance for Arsenal since joining the club in 2019 – so fans could forgive him for having one eye on his future.

The French defender was aged 18 when he made to move to London from French side Saint-Etienne. A tall, fast defender who is exceptionally comfortable on the ball, Saliba was seen as a long-term signing that could feature in Arsenal’s backline for at least the next decade.

Saliba spent the 2019/20 season on loan at Saint-Etienne as part of the deal to bring him to the club. However, the Covid-19 pandemic curtailed the campaign early, meaning the Frenchman didn’t get an entire season to showcase his attributes.

When he arrived at the Emirates Stadium that summer, he found the route to the first team blocked. Manager Mikel Arteta described leaving him out of the lineup as “painful“.

Read: Arsenal have a shocking red card record under Mikel Arteta

The closest he came to senior first-team football in England that season was playing in the Papa John’s Trophy against Gillingham for Arsenal U21s. The team that night, coincidentally, featured Emile Smith Rowe and a returning Calum Chambers.

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Saliba moved on loan to Nice that January, where he made 20 Ligue 1 appearances.

How impressive has Saliba been this season?

This season has seen him go out on loan again to Marseille. Saliba has been outstanding for Jorge Sampaoli’s side. They have the best defensive record in Ligue 1, conceding just 16 goals. The Frenchman himself has appeared in 20 out of their 21 games this season.

Back in September, Sampaoli claimed that the young defender is a “future great of French football“.

Read: Ligue 1 game abandoned as mass brawl breaks out at Nice v Marseille

His form has prompted questions about his long-term future, which has concerned Arsenal fans who are desperate to see him in the first team. Speaking to RMC Sport, however, Saliba has made comments that may ease those nerves.

William Saliba on Arsenal future

When asked about his future at Arsenal and how he assesses his time at the club so far, Saliba quickly attributes his difficult times as learning experiences.

He explained: “Even if it didn’t go well on a personal level, I take it as an experience. It gave me a stronger mentality.

“Before going to Arsenal, I said to myself that I was going to play, I was sure of it. I wondered who I was going to play with, arrived, and I played zero games. I played with the U23s. It gave me a good slap.

“Today, I am more focused. We have to do more each time. For the coach [Arteta] I wasn’t ready yet … Then the question was asked whether I was going to play in the Coupe de France [for Saint-Etienne, after it was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic].

“Then I came back. I trained for two weeks on my own. We chained two to three friendly matches, but I had to regain physical condition. The championship followed quickly, and the coach felt that I was not ready. I respect his decision.”

Saliba’s long-term future is unclear, but one thing is for sure. Gunners fans are keen to see their big-money signing fulfil his potential at the Emirates Stadium – and they will be hoping Arteta comes to the same conclusion this summer.

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