When Arsenal first signed William Saliba from St Etienne in 2019, it was thought that he would soon prove to be the type of central defender the Gunners had been crying out for. Fans were genuinely excited having heard a great deal about the French youngster, and after the Gunners signed Gabriel, it looked almost inevitable that the pair would be the partnership at the heart of the Arsenal defence for potentially the next decade.
How quickly things changed. While Gabriel made an instant impact by featuring in the first team almost immediately, William Saliba has been shunted out to Nice on loan, much to his chagrin. Rumours abound about Saliba’s lack of discipline and application but also his attitude. A source close to the club stated “Anelka’s back” shortly after the Frenchman arrived, a direct reference to another troubled talent whose ego and agent ended the successful partnership between the club and player.
It was abundantly clear that Saliba was unhappy with his treatment since his arrival in North London and he conveyed that displeasure to fellow players and also to the manager. That’s fine behind closed doors but then he decided, one assumes of his own volition, to question his manager’s decision. The 19-year-old, who won Nice’s Player of the Month award for January, told RMC Sport via ESPN:
“It is clear that so much has changed in the last year,”
“When I saw that the coach changed a lot changed for me too. In this year there has been a lot of change. He [Arteta] judged me on two-and-a-half matches. I would have liked for him to play me more. But he told me I wasn’t ready.”
“I was waiting for him to give me a chance, but football is like that. When I initially came to Arsenal the league looked very good, so I showed up to training and wanted to train on my own to show the coach I was ready.”
“I am happy now. I want to play for Nice. The idea when you are part of a team is a better feeling for me.”
During an interview with Telefoot at the end of January, William Saliba said (via ESPN):
“I really, really, really didn’t think that I would be transferred for €30 million, to think that I would arrive, where people were expecting a lot from me, the fans excited about me and you find yourself in the reserves, play zero, zero, nothing in the Europa League or the league.”
If Saliba is being advised, then it’s by the village idiot because I can not believe that a player, even such a young one, would slam a door firmly shut on a career before it’s even begun. Now a leaked video has emerged showing the Frenchman in a changing room filming another player performing a lewd act. I say a lewd act, but technically, it’s just an activity that should be conducted in private, not one that should be made available to the public via social media.
It’s not the act you have to question, it’s the circumstances behind it, why did the person think it was reasonable to behave in this way in front of others? Where was this and why wasn’t the behaviour corrected? It looked to be on international duty because the fuzzy image of Saliba seems to be wearing a French jersey. Lastly, why did Saliba feel the need to film and post it in the first place?
This incident supposedly happened three years ago and there are, perhaps, people reading this that will say that it was a long time ago and that William Saliba was just guilty of being immature. Yes, we’ve all done the odd regrettable thing but this raises the question concerning his ability to make suitable choices as well as his character and the timing of the video’s appearance is intriguing.
I’m not implying there is a negative campaign against the lad but as soon as his comments are released, they are quickly followed by a damning video. It’s just a fact, make if that what you will. So what now?
Well, I’m not a gambling man but if I had to place a bet on his Arsenal and international careers hitting the snooze button, I don’t think I’d lose money. An investigation is underway but who wants that job? Hardly a claim to fame or one for the CV is it?
How the French Football Federation is going to view this embarrassing incident is anyone’s guess, but I’d wager they’re not going to be skipping around full of smiles and beaming with glee. Nor will they be understanding and empathic because of his age at the time and one suspects that even the promise of his talent and potential will have no impact on the eventual outcome. The French tolerate very little, especially if it is performed whilst in the National strip on international duty.
Honestly, the stupidity of it all, and now Arsenal have to decide on their next move in terms of the player. The modern Arsenal, not the one that used to forgive and forget indiscretions such as drink driving and substance abuse.
One can only speculate on Arteta’s views, but it’s not the type of conduct that he will want to be connected with the club or his vision of Arsenal, on top of the comments about Saliba’s treatment. It may well be the final straw in his Arsenal career.
What a damn shame that another talent has managed to single-handedly scupper his career at such an early stage. This kid has had a torrid year, the death of his mother, his constant moving around and the disappointment of only featuring for the U23’s in an Arsenal shirt, which isn’t exactly what he envisaged.
I’m not excusing him, those are the facts but if he wants his career to blossom, then he has to get his head down and start acting like a professional. Ozil took the club on in the war of words and didn’t kick a ball for 10 months and no disrespect to William Saliba, but he’s not in the same class and doesn’t carry the same weight.
He needs to shut up, work hard and forget the ‘sucker-uppers’ talent is only about 30% of a footballer’s success story, the rest is gained from commitment, dedication, a willingness to listen and learn, and from taking the opportunities as they come along.
There’s no glory in slogging your guts out in the torrential rain only to end up on the bench at the weekend, but each professional has had his or her fair share on their journey. The world works on instant success stories these days but they aren’t real, Saliba is an undeniable talent, but perhaps, he is weak where it counts.
Others like Jamie Vardy have had to earn it the hard way, working tirelessly without praise or recognition but it never dented the ambition or desire. Similarly, our very own Ian Wright, whose appetite for goals and success eventually earned the rewards he now enjoys. William Saliba is possibly so far removed from that type of character that he is destined to be another promising player who self-detonated and killed off his career before it even got started. It’s a long way back from here!