Premier League • England

William Saliba delivers upbeat message on Arsenal return but knows future out of his hands

William Saliba may finally get to make his Arsenal debut after pledging his future to the club and expressing a desire to prove himself to the fans.

The 21-year-old has been on the Gunners books since the summer of 2019 but has yet to kick a ball in anger. He was loaned back to Saint-Etienne for the 2019-2020 campaign, making 17 appearances in all competitions for Les Verts. Returning to the Emirates, it was thought he might be included in the club’s plans but he was left out of the 2020-21 squad.

A January ’21 loan move to Nice followed where the Bondy-born ace was handed 20 Ligue 1 starts. He impressed at Allianz Riviera but still could not find a spot in the Arsenal squad.

Last season saw him loaned to Marseille where he helped Les Phoceens finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain.

The defender played every minute of 36 top-flight games and was named Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year. Unsurprisingly a few clubs have taken note of his displays.

Marseille themselves made it clear they were keen to sign him on a permanent deal. And the likes of Newcastle United, Leicester City and Atletico Madrid have also been linked.

However, after much speculation about his future, Saliba has now outlined his intentions.

“I belong to Arsenal, I still have two years left,” he told Telefoot. “And I will be back with Arsenal.

“I have played zero matches and I still want to show them my true face and have the chance to play for these fans and this great club.”

Other factors at work in deciding Saliba future

Arsenal just missed out on a top-four spot. They held all the aces in their battle with Tottenham but defeat to Spurs and Newcastle at the death saw them edged out to fifth.

There will be Europa League football in the red half of north London. They remain an attractive prospect for any player looking to make it in the Premier League.

And there may well be spots up for grabs, with a few players leaving. Saliba would love to take one but knows that Mikel Arteta may have other plans.

“It doesn’t just depend on me,” he added. “In any case, to leave like this, would be a shame.”

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta

Arsenal paid £30m for the centre-back and have yet to see any return for their outlay. However, with Arteta insisting on a return from Marseille, the time could be right for him to break through at the Emirates.

READ MORE: Roma boss Jose Mourinho turns to Arsenal man after being priced out of Aaron Wan-Bissaka swoop