Mikel Arteta: William Saliba's 'only intention' was to return to Arsenal

Tom Gott
William Saliba impressed on the opening day against Crystal Palace
William Saliba impressed on the opening day against Crystal Palace / Julian Finney/GettyImages

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has revealed that he did not have to work hard to secure the future of centre-back William Saliba this summer.

The young Frenchman enjoyed an excellent loan campaign with Marseille last season and was tipped to push for a permanent move to the club alongside former Gunner Matteo Guendouzi, but he is back at Arsenal now and was thoroughly impressive in the club's season-opener against Crystal Palace.

There had been speculation that Arsenal had to block Saliba from staying in Marseille, but Arteta has now confirmed that was not the case.

“The reality is that he was very convinced and determined to come here. He [thought of] no other choice, he never suggested anything else,” Arteta said. “From the first conversations I had with him, you could see that he only had one intention – to come here and start to play football matches for Arsenal.”

While Arteta conceded that Saliba's start to the season has been impressive, he urged fans to temper their expectations of the 21-year-old and allow him the time he needs to perfect his craft.

“I think expectations and positive expectations are created when you see something special in a player and it’s obvious: they’ve seen that, they see the talent,” Arteta added.

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“What I would say is, instead of doing that, just protect the player. Let’s protect him, let’s make sure he has the right environment to fulfil his potential and when things don’t go that well that we are as good as we are when things are going well.

“Mistakes are part of football at 21 and 35. They’re going to happen, the mistakes that we want to happen are as much as possible on the training field and if they happen on the pitch they don’t cause you goals. That’s the objective. But inevitably, things will happen.

“I always said that especially with the young and development portfolio of players that we have in our squad, you have to pay a bill. And that bill is that at some stage they’re going to make mistakes, they’re going to experience things for the first time and they have to go through that process.”

90min understands that Arsenal now intend to reward Saliba with a new long-term contract, with contact already made with his representatives.