Reports suggest that Atletico Madrid are keeping tabs on Arsenal defender William Saliba. As the summer window is nearing, not only Arsenal but many other top clubs are planning for their squad next season. Some of these clubs’ transfer strategy is now clashing with that of the Gunners’ plan for the upcoming season.
The one area Arsenal are least worried about for next season is their defence. With the signings of Ben White, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Nuno Tavares, and Aaron Ramsdale last summer, the club is secured at the back.
The North London club also have the choice to recall loaned centre-back William Saliba, if they plan to further strengthen their defence, but this option could prove tough with both Olympique Marseille, the club he is currently at, and Atletico Madrid targeting the French defender.
According to reports from L’Equipe (via Metro), Atletico Madrid are interested in William Saliba if the Gunners decide to part ways with him. This could also harm Marseille, who themselves want to keep the defender for at least another season. Notably, the 21-year-old Frenchman is yet to play for the Gunners’ first team since he signed back in 2019.
Willaim Saliba arrived at the Emirates from Saint-Etienne, for a fee of £27million. However, he was sent back on loan to Saint Etienne for the 2019-20 season. As the defender failed to establish himself in Arsenal’s first team, he was then loaned out to Nice for the second half of the 2020-21 season.
Before the start of the current season, the French player was sent off to Marseille on loan, where he has been playing excellent football under manager Jorge Sampaoli. This season, he has 33 Ligue 1 appearances, most among the Marseille players, and has contributed to 12 clean sheets.
Saliba’s defensive underlying statistics show why he is one of the main men at the Ligue 1 club. His “pressure per 90 minutes” is 7.86, with a success rate of 46.9%. He has 1.30 “blocks per 90 minutes” and 2.14 “interceptions per 90 minutes”. The French centre-back also has 2.41 “clearances per 90 minutes”, while just 0.06 “errors leading to shots per 90 minutes” (stats via fbref).
Due to his impressive performance this season, he earned his international debut with France this year. Saliba aims to be a part of Didier Deschamps’ squad for the World Cup in Qatar this year.
Arsenal, however, have yet to decide if they will recall Saliba and make him a part of Mikel Arteta’s squad or let him leave for a price. The young defender, in an interview with Le Parisien last week, expressed his happiness at the Ligue 1 club and how he would not mind playing in France to boost his chance of representing his country at the World Cup. He said:
‘There is always a chance.
‘I do not hide that I am very happy in Marseille.
‘I have developed, I have passed a milestone. If I make it into France’s squad it’s thanks to Marseille, because there is a lot of visibility.
‘They are a very big club with a lot of pressure, but when you’re good there are a lot of good things that happen to you.
‘We will see in May or June depending on the discussions. Today, my future, I don’t know what it is.’
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It remains to be seen which way he goes. At Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone’s mentorship, he can develop his defensive attributes even more. He already looks set on the path to becoming one of the best centre-backs of his generation. Marseille can definitely boost their Ligue 1 hopes and make the UEFA Champions League spot secured if they can work out a deal that is agreeable to both Saliba and Arsenal.
Arteta himself should think about recalling him, especially with the Gunners set to be involved in a European competition next season. They have just 3 centre-backs in the squad – Ben White, Gabriel, Rob Holding. They need more options in that position. With the added participation in the European competition, Arsenal will be looking at around 50 games minimum next season. They won’t be able to sustain it with 3 defenders.
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