William Saliba has admitted he was disappointed not to even get a chance at Arsenal and then responded to claims he could extend his stay at Nice if things go to plan.
Saliba joined Arsenal from Saint-Etienne in 2019 but was immediately loaned back to the French side for experience.
He was unable to complete the season in Ligue 1 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Arsenal failed to come to an agreement with Saint-Etienne over extending his loan.
Hence, the young defender returned to north London in the summer of 2020. However, he could not find a space in the first team as had been expected of him.
Arsenal left him out of their squad list for the Premier League and Europa League. It meant he could only play in the EFL Trophy for Arsenal’s under-23s – and he was sent off in one of his two appearances.
With his time in England clearly not going to plan, Arsenal had to find a solution for the 19-year-old.
Therefore, they announced earlier this week that they had sent him back on loan to Ligue 1 – although this time to a different club, Nice.
In the space of a few days, he has already played more for Nice’s first team than he ever has for Arsenal. Saliba went straight into the starting lineup for their loss to Brest on Wednesday, two days after his arrival at the club.
The centre-back has since given his first press conference as a Nice player, and says he is already feeling the benefits of getting back on the pitch.
He said (via Get French Football News): “Things happened very quickly (in terms of the transfer), especially because two days before (the match), I arrived quite late, I did my medical etc.
“But what’s for sure is that I was coming from Arsenal U23s, and what is for sure is that the rhythm at professional level and U23 level is not the same.
“But I wanted to play and I trained so hard at Arsenal. That’s why the coach put me in directly on Wednesday. But certainly I had not played for a while and that has done me good.”
Explaining why he chose Nice, he said: “Nice was certainly my top choice. Because it is a good club that I have liked for a long time.
“It is a club that fights at the top of the table, that fights to be in European competition. It is a club with ambition, that has a good style of play, style of possession.
“As for Saint-Etienne, that is my home, and my comfort zone. I wanted to leave my comfort zone to come to Nice, a club I have never played for. I am sure it is the best choice.”
Saliba reflects on Arsenal spell
Asked about his struggles to settle at Arsenal, Saliba admitted that he would have liked more confidence from manager Mikel Arteta.
“My first six months were difficult, because I was coming from six months where I wasn’t able to train because I was at home (pandemic), and couldn’t train outside, couldn’t play.
“I arrived there as they were finishing the league season, so I was training alone. As soon as they came back from holidays, we quickly had the first friendly matches where I lacked rhythm and was a bit insufficient physically.
“The coach immediately told me that I was not ready. I would have at least liked to have a chance to rediscover my rhythm. But this is football, it’s like that.”
There are already rumours that Nice could look to extend Saliba’s contract for another season.
The Frenchman is keeping his options open after promising to do his current club proud.
He said: “I am a young player, but for me I can bring my young experience. I have played in Ligue 1, even though I am young, I am here to be the boss.
“I have come to run the defence and I intend to give my all and I hope that we will be better defensively in the matches to come.
He added: “I have signed a six-month contract, after these six months we will see what happens. But for now I have signed for six months, I am going to give my all, and then we will see.”