Premier League • England

Arteta explains Saliba exit logic before making plans abundantly clear for next season – ‘He has to’

William Saliba at an awards ceremony

Mikel Arteta believes William Saliba “has to” return to Arsenal in the summer, having explained why the defender spent the season away from the club.

Saliba has been a revelation while on loan with Marseille in Ligue 1 this season. As such, the French side want to explore keeping him on a permanent basis. If that happened, he would leave Arsenal without a senior appearance.

It would raise questions of Arsenal’s policy for the player, whom they spent a reported fee of £27million on in 2019. He has since endured three loan spells back in his native France.

The latest has been very successful, so there has been much anticipation about what will happen with the centre-back in the summer.

TEAMtalk understands he is willing to fight for a first-team place back with his parent club. In public, though, he has made no secret of the fact that he would consider a return to Marseille.

However, Mikel Arteta has other ideas. The Arsenal manager – who once played in France himself for PSG – has now affirmed that Saliba is part of his plans.

Indeed, he has revealed concerns about gametime drove his decision to loan Saliba out last year. Next season, though, Arsenal will have European football again, potentially opening up more opportunities.

“He has to come back,” Arteta told RMC Sport. “He has the experience and the necessary environment to be competitive with us.

William Saliba wants to fight for his place at Arsenal

William Saliba wants his Arsenal return and is ready to fight for his place in the Arsenal back four

“If he had stayed with us this year, with one Premier League game a week and with Ben White and Gabriel, he wouldn’t have had half the game time he had with Marseille, that’s for sure.

“In terms of his growth and what he could do next year it wouldn’t have been good. William wasn’t with us because he wouldn’t have had the playing time required to gain experience. That’s it, nothing else.”

Saliba amassed 51 appearances for Marseille in the 2021-22 season, much more than he would have got back at the Emirates Stadium.

Time finally right for Saliba at Arsenal

But by building that experience, he may have furthered his chances of making an impression if he does return to north London.

Named the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year, the 21-year-old could finally get the chance to kick on in an Arsenal shirt next season.

There are currently rumours about the future of Gabriel Magalhaes, who is a major target for Juventus. If the Brazilian defender leaves, perhaps Saliba could step into his starting role.

He would also have to compete for a place with Rob Holding. Although, his form this season should in theory have put him above the Englishman in Arteta’s potential hierarchy.

Saliba has certainly had to be patient but it appears he is finally winning Arteta over.

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