"He has to come back": Arteta adamant William Saliba has a place at Arsenal
The Arsenal boss spoke about the French centreback, who could be one of the main men for the Gunners next season
It's been a bittersweet season for Arsenal. The Gunners, who set out at the beginning of the season looking to improve on their dismal 2020/21 season, did exactly that, but also slipped in the final few matches and let go a much anticipated return to Champions League football.
The Gunners boss knows they have to put together an improved team for next season, so they can capitalise on the performances of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard. One of the spots to work on is centreback, and Arsenal could just have the right man for the job, provided they can convince him to return to the club.
William Saliba, who was on loan at Marseille this season, was signed by Arsenal from youth club AS Saint Etienne for a fee reported to be around £27 million. However, since then Saliba has spent three seasons out on loan in France, first staying another season with Saint Etienne and then with Nice and later Olympique Marseille, and is yet to make a single first team appearance for Arsenal. It is widely speculated then that the Frenchman now appears to favour staying in France, having grown disillusioned with his move to the Gunners.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta spoke about the 21 year old in an interview with French radio RMC Sport and made it clear the Saint Etienne academy product has a place in his team. "He has to come back. He has the experience and the necessary environment to be competitive with us" said Arteta, who at the same time defended the clubs position of sending Saliba on loan, "If he had stayed with us this year, with one Premier League game a week and with Ben White and Gabriel, he wouldn't have had half the game time he had with Marseille, that's for sure".
Now, apparently, the Spaniard thinks Saliba is ready to challenge the starting centrebacks for a spot in the first 11: "In terms of his growth and what he could do next year, it wouldn't have been good. William wasn't with us because he wouldn't have had the playing time required to gain experience. That's it, nothing else."
Saliba played a total of 52 matches for Jorge Sampaoli's Olympique de Marseille, becoming a key man in their team.
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