Keown questions ‘bizarre’ handling of Arsenal man’s situation

Date published: Wednesday 14th October 2020 6:06 - Matthew Briggs

Mikel Arteta TEAMtalk

William Saliba’s situation at Arsenal has been far from clear and Martin Keown has labelled Arsenal’s handling of the player “bizarre”.

The Gunners signed Saliba back in July 2019 under Unai Emery for a fee of around £27m. He was immediately loaned to Saint-Etienne for the 2019/20 campaign.

However, his season was interrupted by injury and Arsenal then blocked the extension to the deal after the coronavirus pandemic. That angered the French club, because it meant the defender missed out on the Coupe de France final.

The signals then were that the 19-year-old would be integrated into Mikel Arteta’s first team. However, the Spaniard soon made it clear that he wanted Saliba to get more experience.

“He had year last where Arsenal essentially loaned him to Saint-Etienne and that was a transition year for him,” said Arteta earlier this month,” said Arteta recently.

“For many reasons, that wasn’t the transition year that he needed because he had a lot of injuries. He had some personal issues and obviously with COVID and the French league getting cancelled, he didn’t have that year. So he needs that year of transition.

“He needs that year of transition and we are trying to make the right decisions for him to make the best possible year of transition for him to have the player we want for our future.”

However, a deadline-day loan back to St-Etienne fell through, with the Ligue 1 side pointing the finger at Arsenal for the collapse.

A loan move to the Championship was then mooted before Friday’s domestic deadline.

That then changed this week with The Athletic reporting the Frenchman will stay at the Emirates until January at least, despite interest from Fulham and Brentford.

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Keown anxious

Arteta is now planning to get Saliba training with the first-team squad and see how he develops.

It’s all been very confusing and Keown told talkSPORT he cannot understand what is going on

“It’s bizarre. We’ve just not seen the kid,” said the ex-Arsenal defender. “You want to see him to see how he performs say in the Championship to see if he’s good enough.

“I’m anxious to see. The feeling was that this was going to be the one.

“Gabriel has come in and been an outstanding signing.

“Maybe they feel he’s too young and want him to go out to pastures new.

“To then loan him out when there was a real problem there last season seems a real mystery.”

Saliba has been left out of Arsenal’s Europa League squad, but he could still be named in Arteta’s Premier League squad, which will be announced on October 20.

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