When Arsenal spent £27 million on William Saliba, it was expected that the Frenchman would integrate quickly into the club’s setup. The first-team beckoned, with Arsenal’s backline in major need of reinforcement.
However, several games into the season, and with the European transfer window now closed, Saliba remains in the Gunners’ squad, without any senior minutes to his name.
Mikel Arteta has spoken in detail about how the transition year laid out for the Frenchman in 2019/20 was interrupted. The plan had been for another season in France with St. Etienne to enable Saliba time to further develop.
“He had a year last year where Arsenal loaned him to St Etienne and that was a transition year for him,” Arteta explained.
“For many reasons, that wasn’t the transition year that he needed because he had a lot of injuries, some personal injuries and also with COVID and the French league getting cancelled, he didn’t have that year.
“He needs that year of transition and we are trying to make the right decisions for him to give him the best transitional year for him to have the player we want in our future.”
It has since been revealed that Saliba has been omitted from Arsenal’s Europa League squad, along with Mesut Ozil and Sokratis.
This appeared to confirm just how unlikely it was that the 19-year-old would remain with the Gunners. With Rapid Vienna, Molde and Dundalk in Arsenal’s European group, there appeared the perfect opportunity to hand Saliba some much-needed game-time.
Arsenal’s early Carabao Cup outings, on the other hand, came against Leicester City and Liverpool, with Arteta having opted against risking an unproven talent against some of the Premier League’s best.
With the Championship window still open, the most likely option therefore appears to be for Saliba to head out on loan once again. Both Brentford and Watford are said to be in the running to sign him.
Brentford will be looking to push for promotion, but with Pontus Jansson the Bees’ starting right centre-back, minutes for Saliba may be hard to come by. Meanwhile, the young Ben Wilmot (20) and experienced Craig Cathcart (31) have both been used as the right-sided centre-half in a back-three for Watford.
There lies a greater opportunity for Saliba to stake a claim for consistent game-time. With just days remaining in the window, however, the clock is ticking for Arsenal to come to a decision.
This article was edited by Conor Laird.
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