Mikel Arteta issued a glowing tribute to departing Arsenal defender David Luiz but played down talk that Willian and Bernd Leno could follow him out of the Emirates Stadium.
It emerged recently that Luiz would not be staying with Arsenal beyond the end of this season. His contract is due to expire in the summer and after talks with the club he has decided to move on. Arteta will have to find a way to replace his experience at the back.
Luiz will leave after two seasons with the club, having joined from London rivals Chelsea. His form has been up and down but he has been a valued leader for Arteta.
The manager spoke fondly of their time working together at his press conference on Tuesday.
“He’s a player that has won everything in football,” Arteta said. “I had the privilege to work with him for 18 months, we got on really good, we had some great moments together.
“I learned from him. He’s been very helpful every time with the team. I feel sadness because you get attached to the players emotionally.
“We had very clear talks in the last few months. We already made a big decision to extend his contract. He’s given his best, I tried to help him as much as I could, the club as well.
“After some conversations we decided it’s the best way to do it now.”
The departure of Luiz could open the door for William Saliba to finally kickstart his Arsenal career. He is currently out on loan and is yet to play for the senior team since joining Arsenal in 2019.
But Arteta hinted that Saliba could have a future back in London.
“You will see in the summer the possible (Luiz) replacement,” he said. “William is our player and that’s the decision we will take soon.
“When we finish the season and sit down and discuss the roles of every member of the squad, how they can fulfil that role. He’s our player and he’ll be back here for sure.”
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Replacing Luiz is just one of many decisions facing Arsenal in an important summer. They must strengthen their squad to get back in European contention, but funds may be limited if they miss out on qualification this season.
But Arteta says they already have a clear plan and says he is trying to make better decisions.
“We know what we want to do,” he said. “There’s a clear plan to put together.
“We have a lot of players on loan, some of them have to come back. We’ll see. Let’s see how much we can do.
“I’m sure I’ve done a lot of things wrong. How am I going to make much better decisions? Get the best out of this football club, the players. I want to spend time building, creating and evolving the team the way we want to do.”
Arteta addresses Willian, Leno future
Another player to have been linked with an exit is Willian, who also joined from Chelsea last summer but has struggled significantly.
One of the club’s highest earners, he has struggled to repay the faith Arsenal have put in him at this stage of his career. As such, there were reports that they could go their separate ways just one year into his three-year contract.
But Arteta suggested otherwise when taking responsibility for the winger’s struggles.
“We signed a player with an incredible talent,” he said. “This season has been difficult. I take full responsibility because I have to be the one getting the best out of him.
“Every player who is under contract is likely to be here with us next season.”
Indeed, Arteta also brushed off rumours that goalkeeper Leno could be approaching the end of his time with the club.
“It’s another one with a contract here because of the length of his contract things will be speculated,” he said. “He has two years here and he belongs here.”