Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has claimed that William Saliba has not reached the end of the road as a Gunners player, insisting he will be back in north London as part of the first team next season after finishing the 2020/21 campaign on loan at Nice back home in France.
Arsenal committed to invest up to £27m in Saliba when the teenage defender was bought from Saint-Etienne in 2019. But things haven’t gone to plan and he has wound up leaving on loan this month in order to get the senior game time that Arteta wasn’t prepared to give him.
Saliba remained at Saint-Etienne last season on loan in the hope that he would continue to play regularly and aid his development. But injuries severely limited his appearances and he lacked the experience Arteta wanted when he finally arrived in England ahead of this season.
That led to the youngster being placed in the Under-23 squad, and by the time of his departure to Nice this week he was still to make his senior Arsenal debut.
But Arteta has been sure to explain that the club does not wish to cut ties with Saliba and he still has every intention of using the player next season if he has played regular first-team football with Nice.
“I was always very conscious when he came back, when he didn’t do the step that he had to before joining us, that to start a relationship with a new manager, a new club, new teammates where he is not having any game time is really difficult and I think it is damaging for the future,” Arteta said, via Arsenal.com.
“I want to protect the player that we signed and the future we have alongside him and the best way to do that is to give him minutes to play. He has been really good, it has been a difficult few months for him to cope with that situation but I see the development that he has made, the progression that he has shown over the months and now he is ready to compete.
“He needs to play as many games as possible [in Ligue 1] to be ready for us from next season. He will come back for pre-season and he will be with us, and hopefully he will come back after playing a number of games and [with] his performances raising and his development progressing in the right way. That is why we made that decision.
“I know that sometimes it is difficult to explain or understand after the money the club spent bringing him in, sending him on loan, but a lot of things have happened to him, he is a long-term player for us and we need to protect him as well.”