There’s been a lot of speculation regarding William Saliba of Arsenal this season. Talks of failed loan deals, the death of the French teenager’s mother, and his dissatisfaction with his exclusion from the Arsenal squad paint a picture of a player who has a range of varied problems.
Supporters have been confused by Mikel Arteta’s reluctance to pair the player alongside Gabriel in the Arsenal defence, especially with his blossoming reputation. Gabriel (22) walked straight into the Arsenal first team and looks like he’s been there for years, delivering assured and polished performances this season.
The Frenchman hasn’t even had the chance to star in defence, even though a great many of the defenders that are ahead of him aren’t technically or naturally as good as the 19-year-old. William Saliba has been hailed as a star in the making, but Arsenal seem unsure of his worth or temperament and Arteta has been reluctant to throw him in at the deep end.
The Arsenal boss has identified Saliba’s absence as the players ‘transition year’, something that doesn’t generally occur when a player is secured for £27 million with such a big reputation.
Last season, he was allowed to continue with Saint-Etienne, which was going to be repeated this campaign but the deal fell through. Then, it was reported that Arsenal were keen to see him perform in the Championship this term which indicates that something is generally amiss.
It’s no secret that the player has been struggling to settle and make his mark with his new club in England and he has admitted privately to being homesick. There’s also a suggestion close to the club that the player hasn’t shown Arteta his readiness to join the first team and that his temperament, at present, is questionable.
William Saliba wants regular football and is impatient to make a start for Arsenal in the Premiership, but Arteta wants to see more before that happens in terms of either attitude, application, or desire. This is all unconfirmed at the moment, as are the reports that Saliba wants to leave Arsenal due to his exclusion.
Arteta has recently admitted his error in omitting the player from the Europa League squad and before the season is over, Saliba may get his chance as long as he keeps his head down. The fact is the youngster has to fight for his place beside Gabriel in the heart of the Gunners defence, with Mari, Luiz, and Holding also in contention for a sustained run in the side.
Let’s be brutally honest, did anyone expect the player to be happy to sit out the season after experiencing regular first-team football. The good news is that it’s a situation that is resolvable because Arteta has already shown an ability to support and improve players.