All has not gone the way William Saliba and the Arsenal fans would have hoped for when the Frenchman joined the Gunners last summer in a £27 million move.
The then 18-year-old was immediately sent back to Saint Etienne on a season-long loan. However, his development was hampered by injuries. He just made 17 appearances for the French Club in the 2019/20 season which was far less than what the Gunners would have hoped for.
It’s never easy for a player when a club pays a hefty sum for them. And considering Saliba is still only a teenager, the pressure that comes with the money proves to be a liability for many. The 19-year-old also tragically lost his mother in May. Thus, it comes as no surprise that he needs more time to adapt to a new country.
Mikel Arteta has repeatedly told the reporters that the young defender is not ready for the step-up in the Premier League. Recently, before his side’s match against Sheffield United, he said, “Well as I explained, the difficult year that the player had and the plan that we had for him, for the transition year, we could not achieve.”
After talks with Rennes and Saint Etienne failed to materialize, a move to a Championship club looks the most likely option. Arsenal have already seven center-backs thus Saliba is considered to be surplus to requirements this season.
Three out of seven defenders are out of contract at Arsenal next summer. Thus, with an additional year of experience and the departure of three center backs, the pathway to the first-team would be a lot clearer for the Frenchman.
Arsenal fans should be patient about the defender’s development. There is no doubt in the ability of the 19-year-old. When he’s ready, he has the capacity to be one of the most exciting defenders in world football. But right now, he’s just a young boy from France settling in a new country.