Arsenal defender William Saliba has had his say about his difficult time at the Emirates after his arrival from Saint-Etienne.
The young French defender was signed in the summer of 2019 by Unai Emery but was immediately loaned back. The Spaniard was sacked a few months after and Mikel Arteta took over from him a few days before Christmas.
The January transfer window was just over a week away and Arteta certainly wanted to make an impact. However, we didn’t have a lot of money available, and the Arsenal boss had to look at other options.
Saliba has now revealed that one of Arteta’s first transfer decisions was to cut short his loan in January 2020. Sadly, he couldn’t and we signed Pablo Mari on loan instead.
The Frenchman told L’Equipe, as quoted by GFFN: “They (Arsenal) wanted me to come back in January (2020). I didn’t, I stayed in St Étienne. After that, the fans were really looking forward to my arrival, I certainly didn’t imagine that it would happen like this.
“Aside from that, it is football, I have learned that nothing is certain, you can be there, in your game, and then things can go south. I took a lot of experience from it, at least I will be ready for the future.”
Arsenal Insider’s view:
It is unclear if it was Saliba who rejected an early return to Arsenal or if Saint-Etienne refused to let him leave considering that their major demand when they agreed to sell him to us was to keep him for another season.
If it was the former, that might explain why Arteta wasn’t really keen to use him. The Arsenal boss has already shown that he is ruthless with players who are not on the same page as him; just ask Matteo Guendouzi.
However, there is a good chance Saliba wasn’t quite ready for the Premier League. He hadn’t played for a long time and there were multiple senior centre-halves ahead of him in the pecking order.
That might just be why Arteta wanted him back – to give him six months to settle which would have made him ready for the start of this campaign. Sadly, that didn’t happen, and Saliba now has to prove his worth at Nice to convince the Arsenal boss to give him regular chances next term.