Mikel Arteta cherishes why Arsenal’s decision to release William Saliba on loan is being challenged – with £ 27 million ($ 37 million) being spent – but the Gunners boss says the teenage defender in north London still has a bright future.
During the summer of 2020, the center-half completed a big-money move to England, with a contract with Saint-Etienne 12 months earlier.
Saliba, with his talent ready to be welcomed by a Premier League outfit that has endured defensive struggles, was supposed to slot seamlessly into the fold at Emirates Stadium.
Arteta is, however, yet to give the youngster a meaningful debut and has now allowed him to go back to France for the remainder of the season and connect with Nice.
The Arsenal manager is keen to point out that he is not giving up on Saliba, with a deal reached in January to give him the best chance possible for his parent club to have an impact in 2021-22.
Arteta told reporters: “We signed a big project with which we had some problems because he hasn’t played enough football in the past 18 months and at that age, and that’s crucial in the development phase he is in.”
When he came back, when he didn’t take the move he had to take before joining us, I was still really aware that starting a relationship with a new boss, a new club, new teammates where he doesn’t have any game time is very difficult and I think it’s dangerous for the future.
I want to preserve the player we have signed and the future we have with him, and allowing him minutes to play is the best way to do that.
He was really good, it was difficult for him to cope with that situation in a few months, but I see the development he has made, the progress he has shown over the months and he is now ready to compete.
He’s also going to a really strong league, a league he knows really well, he has expertise [there], and he has to play as many games as he can to be ready for us next season.
He’s going to come back for the pre-season and he’s going to be with us, and hopefully, he’s going to come back after playing a number of games and [with] his performances increasing and his growth moving in the right way. That’s why that was the decision we made.
I know that after the money the club spent bringing him in, sending him on loan, sometimes it’s hard to explain or understand, but a lot of things have happened to him, he’s a long-term player for us, and we also need to protect him.
It’s not enough for him to give him three or four games, he needs a lot more than that, but what’s happened over the past 18 months, he’s been through some personal issues and we have to try to help him and stay as close to him as possible, and now he needs to play, play, play and enjoy his profession as well.
“He’s very delighted to go there right now and thankfully he can enjoy his football and be ready for us next season in order for him just to do that, I think we found the right club with him.”
In their Ligue 1 clash with Brest on Wednesday, Saliba started his career for Nice and did not get off to the best of starts as he was booked within 11 minutes and conceded a 2-0 defeat twice before half-time.