Mikel Arteta reveals when he realised William Saliba was ready for Arsenal
By Tom Gott
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has confessed it took him just two training sessions during the summer to realise William Saliba was ready to be an integral part of the Gunners' defence.
Saliba was an expensive signing from Saint-Etienne in 2019 but endured a slow start to life in England, spending the first six months on the sidelines after being left out of both the Premier League and Europa League squads.
After a further 18 months back on loan in France, first with Nice and then Marseille last season, Saliba returned to Arsenal in the summer and immediately became a core part of the team's defence alongside centre-back partner Gabriel.
Asked when he realised Saliba was ready, Arteta confessed the pair did not even speak for a week after the centre-back returned from loan because he wanted to test Saliba's response.
"I just wanted to see how he was because then you can understand the real him," Arteta explained.
"He had an immediate impact...the first two training sessions that we looked at him and thought: 'There's huge potential here'.
"His attitude, the way he came in and said: 'I'm going to prove that I'm very good and I deserve to be here'. Without any looking back, or being shy - he was doing it the right way.
"He took out every question mark that we could have with him and gave us all the reasons to play him."
Saliba's initial struggles at Arsenal brought plenty of intense pressure for Arteta, who was braced for further speculation after the centre-back's excellent loan spell with Marseille came to an end.
"'I was 100% sure that I was going to have a lot of pressure externally to give him the opportunity," Arteta explained. "Then it was the perfect storm and a beautiful relationship started to build.
"There were a lot of question marks and he went with all of them, ticking them off. How the player is going to reintegrate into our dynamic after being out for so long. Is there some frustration there, something personal between, for example, between me and the player because he could not understand that?
"He has his aura and presence, and then he is very focused and determined to become a top player."
On this week's edition of TFP, Harry Symeou hosts Grizz Khan, Scott Saunders and Hunter Godson to preview the weekend's Premier League action, including Man Utd's trip to Anfield to face Liverpool.
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