William Saliba has been advised that being sent on loan to Nice was “not a punishment” by Arsenal – although there is one thing he needs to improve to make it at the Emirates Stadium.
Saliba joined Arsenal from Saint-Ettiene in 2019. He was immediately loaned back to his former club for one season. It was then thought he would join up with the Arsenal first team, but that never came to be.
The defender is still without a senior appearance for Arsenal. After failing to break in, he was shipped back to France for another loan in January – this time with Nice.
Saliba has been outspoken since his exit, accusing Mikel Arteta of not giving him enough time. There have thus been rumours that the 20-year-old will never return to the Emirates Stadium.
But according to former Gunners defender Bacary Sagna, Saliba could still have a future in north London.
Sagna has suggested that it was a “clever” decision for Arsenal to send him away and his form with Nice could lead to a brighter future in the Premier League.
“I’m not surprised because he has joined the best league in the world,” Sagna told Goal of Saliba’s struggles to settle in England. “Being good in France is totally different to proving himself in the Premier League.
“I still have trust in him; I think he is a good player and he can adapt to Arsenal because I’ve seen him play many times.
“He is doing well at Nice and has probably been their best player. At that age you need to be playing. He has big potential and in France people know it.
“Sending him away is not a bad thing, it’s not a punishment. To me it’s clever to send him [on loan] rather than him being on the bench or not even being in the squad.”
However, Sagna has spotted one area of Saliba’s game that he needs to improve if he is to succeed back at Arsenal.
“I’m watching games and maybe he needs to be a bit more aggressive,” Sagna said.
“Be a leader, especially in his position. I don’t know if he speaks English. This could be a problem when you come to a new country; but you need to adapt fast, you don’t have time.
“Time is a luxury you don’t have when you come to a club like Arsenal because you have to play straight away.
“To adapt it takes months and Mikel probably saw a problem and thought ‘you need to be more aggressive, you need go out somewhere and play’.
“Then when he comes back, he will have the mentality needed for the Premier League.”
Sagna suggests Bellerin exit
Last week, Sagna spoke about the future of another Arsenal defender. He claimed that full-back Hector Bellerin may leave.
The Frenchman thinks the man who succeeded him in the right-back role may have to make a similar decision to the one he once did.
“Hector has been there for years,” Sagna told Goal. “He started playing not long after I left, so he has been in the team for like six years.
“And a bit like I felt, he probably feels that he wants to challenge himself because he has been there for a long time.
“It’s nothing to do with the club, nothing to do with winning cups or whatever. At some point if you want to progress, in my mind you need to go somewhere and challenge yourself and start from zero again. This is how I felt.
“Arsenal was my club and is still my beloved club. But after seven years I had the feeling that because I was part of the house, even when I didn’t deserve to play, I would have played.
“It’s quite tricky as a player. Hector’s still young; he still has five good years to play at the top level and he can do it. So, if he left now, I wouldn’t be surprised.”