Mikel Arteta makes his verdict on £30m transfer, now Edu must signal green light after scout trip – Chris Davison
The whole William Saliba discussion is a topic that isn’t going to disappear anytime soon.
It’s been over two years since he joined Arsenal in a deal worth around £27 million, but the youngster is yet to make a senior appearance for the Gunners.
Labelled as one of the best young defenders in the game, in addition to a string of impressive performances, fans are all asking the same question – ‘why on earth isn’t he playing for us?’
It’s a good question, but at the same time, I think it’s important to look at the wider picture sometimes.
Saliba is only 20-years-old and has made just 81 appearances in his career so far, some of which came at U21 level. His talent and potential are clear for all to see, but the right path for development has always got to remain a priority.
I understand the lack of involvement with us so far, along with the three loan deals he’s been sent out on over the past few seasons. He probably wasn’t quite ready for Premier League football when joining at the age of 18, then injuries and family tragedy struck leading to even more setbacks.
Despite all of that, considering how far he has come as a player and where he’s at right now, I really do think it would be a big mistake not to have him involved from next season.
At this moment in time, I can’t see him coming in and taking either of Ben White or Gabriel’s places straight away, but that’s not to say he won’t eventually.
The lack of clarity on Saliba’s situation has understandably left supporters feeling a bit worried and confused. They are turning on their TVs before witnessing him put in Man of the Match performances and executing incredible last-ditch tackles on the likes of Kylian Mbappe, so it’s no surprise to see them disappointed.
However, all hope does not have to be lost just yet after Mikel Arteta dropped a fresh hint on the player’s future yesterday.
Speaking to the media ahead of the clash against Leicester, Arteta was asked if he watched Saliba’s solid display against PSG and whether or not he’d spoken to him since.
“Yes, we have been as a club always in touch,” said Arteta. “They went to see the game as well, Edu and Ben (Knapper) were there to watch him and to keep a close eye on him and the progress that he’s making. Obviously he’s our player and with all the loaned players that we have.”
The Spaniard then added he believes ‘there is room’ for Saliba, White and Gabriel next season, but reiterated that ‘it will depend on what happens with other players’.
Considering Arteta said that one of the reasons Saliba didn’t get into the team previously was down to the amount of centre backs the club had at the time, his latest response should give fans some optimism and It certainly seems as if he’s still very much open to including him in his plans for the future.
Saliba deserves pre-season at least, to prove his worth and quality to the coaches, I don’t think he’s had that big opportunity yet. If the technical director and loans manager are going to watch him whilst he’s having one of his best seasons so far and they still aren’t convinced, then what exactly does the kid have to do?
Do I think he’ll make mistakes? Yes. Do I think he’ll have poor games? Yes. But a player with his potential is too good to throw away and those obstacles will only make him stronger.
Of course, we don’t know all of the details behind the scenes yet. But what we do know is that Arteta is a very strong believer in everyone giving 110% and having a positive attitude.
Now, considering we have seen a similar situation develop with Matteo Guendouzi since the Arsenal manager’s arrival, perhaps his current Olympique Marseille teammate has encountered the same personality problems.
If that is indeed the case, you would think Saliba would have needed a change in character over the last couple of seasons if he has any chance of making it into Arteta’s side. Again, this is just an assumption.
Whatever happens in the summer, Arteta and Edu have got a crucial call to make. Are they going to make the fans even angrier by sending Saliba out on another loan or even worse, selling him? Or will they see some sense and make good use of him moving forwards?
I know which one I’d be going for.
Do you think Saliba still has a future at Arsenal? Follow our new Arsenal Fan Brands Writer Chris Davison on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.