William Saliba has been speaking about his future next season and has revealed he was “hurt” after being jettisoned by Gunners boss Mikel Arteta.
After signing in July 2019 for a fee reported to be around £27m he was immediately loaned back to St Etienne for the 2019/20 season. There were big plans for the 18-year-old. And he might well have expected to have collected in excess of 50 appearances for the club by now.
But the fact is that the centre-back has yet to kick a ball for the Arsenal first team. Arteta decided that the French-born defender needed to develop away from The Emirates.
After featuring in pre-season in 2020, he was then an unused sub in the Community Shield, but that is as close to the first team has he got. Instead he was loaned to Nice and this term he landed at Marseille where he is impressing.
Saliba, now 21, looks like he is starting to fulfil his potential. He has played 28 times for OM this term and become a key member of Jorge Sampaoli’s team.
He is expected to return to London this summer and only time will tell whether Arteta is ready to take the player into his first-team squad.
Saliba seems open to a return, but he has spoken about the torture of failing to feature for Arteta.
Asked if he has heard from the Gunners, Saliba told L’Equipe, via Sport Witness: “They are often in contact with my agent. And they send me messages. They watch my matches. They tell me that we have to continue like this.
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Saliba: The Coach made his choices
“I haven’t played much with the Gunners. The coach has made his choices, that’s life. I left on loan, I put the matches together, and I became an international.
“What happened to me forged a tougher mind, it is not because you have cost €30m that you are playing. I take it positively, even if there are times that you wonder.
“For six months I saw I was the only in the group not to play, that hurt.”
It was put to the Bondy-born defender whether he would return to Arsenal to play the role of a substitute, Saliba said: “Of course, I can’t be happy on Arsenal’s bench. I want to play as a starter.
“Afterwards, if I enter the rotation as a substitute, it’s not like being in the U23s and never being in the squad.”
On staying at Marseille, he said: “We’ll see after (the season). If I come back, it will be with great, great pleasure.”