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What Arsenal Should Do With William Saliba


William Alain André Gabriel Saliba is magnificent defender no doubt. Little wonder why he has become so polarising for a player who hasn’t featured that much at the Emirates. Signed in July2019,the international French defender has successfully made good of the loan system in European football. Which is arguably why he was sent on loan in the first place, right?

Saliba’s deal was announced in the summer of 2019, under Unai Emery’s short lived tenure in London which means current Arsenal Boss, Mikel Arteta did not sign him. Fair enough, he didn’t sign a bunch of the players in the current squad either, that doesn’t automatically mean that Saliba should have remained with the club. Emery loaned him out to Saint-Etienne for the following season and then joined another French club Nice for the 20/21 season and now this season, (at the start of it in Summer 2021) Ben White was signed, an experienced Premier league player who slotted straight into Arsenal’s backline.

The decision to loan The 21-year-old again has been received, with what seems like so much scrutiny after his outstanding campaign with Marseille was analysed; I use the term “analyse” loosely. His first loan spell was, in reality, not bad. He picked up a player of the month award at Nice along with multiple decent performances.

Now in his latest loan spell, he has won the Ligue 1 Young Player – of the Year. From the perspective of Arsenal Football Club, this has been a good bit of business, a young player sent on loan has improved in quality and has become an International player with his nation. Again, this attests to the wonderful benefits of the loan system. So, why exactly is Arteta being criticized for the way the situation has been handled? Granted, the contract situation is not ideal with the Frenchman but talks are ongoing and getting him on board is going to be like a new signing and a needed one that will help improve the quality of the team’s centre back options if I might add. Rob Holding has done an awesome job when required this season, Saliba will undoubtedly do his bit when required as well.

This award will more or less justify Arsenal legend, Henry’s opinion that he shouldn’t have gone on loan. But if he didn’t, he probably wouldn’t have earned his first cap for France and definitely  wouldn’t have won the young player award. Henry added-: “They (Arsenal) didn’t even let him make a mistake. He didn’t even have the chance to compete for his place”. He will have that opportunity sooner rather than later if talks of his return to Arsenal’s first team next season are to be believed and the Emirates faithful along with the coaching staff will be able to see William’s talent up close. But until then, he’s had a swell time with Marseille and that is a massive credit to the player himself for not allowing the disappointment of not being in the Premier league this season to affect his performance in France.

Saliba joins Monaco’s Aurelien Tchouameni, who was named Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Year last season, while Kylian Mbappe, Eden Hazard, Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane also won award during their careers. The on-loan Arsenal defender was also included in Ligue 1’s Team of the Season alongside Mbappe, Tchouameni and his Marseille teammate Dimitri Payet. All things considered, this is quite a remarkable set of accolades for the Arsenal defender.

Manager Mikel Arteta has tried to shrug away talks over a move away this summer, saying back in March: “I know that sometimes it’s difficult to explain or understand after the money that the club has spent trying to bring him in, to send him on loan. But a lot of things have happened to him. He’s a long-term player for us and we need to protect him as well. And giving him three or four games is not enough. Hopefully, he can enjoy his football and be ready for us for next season.” This sounds like a strong indication of Arsenal’s plans to involve him in some capacity come next season. For now, Arsenal will have to focus on other transfer targets whilst trying to improve the squad simultaneously.

One thing is for certain, The Gunners have a special player in their books and if he ends up being transferred to another club, he shouldn’t be cheap and if remains with Arsenal, he is now good enough, if he wasn’t good enough already, to stake a claim in the first team and bring more quality and squad depth to the first team. Either way, it’s a win win for Arsenal. Soldiers go and come, the barracks still remain.

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