Arsenal must resolve William Saliba situation in January to ensure defender gets ‘transition year’

Simon Collings
·3-min read
<p>William Saliba has yet to be handed his Arsenal debut by Mikel Arteta</p> (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

William Saliba has yet to be handed his Arsenal debut by Mikel Arteta

(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

When the January transfer window opens in around six weeks’ time, resolving the situation surrounding William Saliba should be high on Arsenal’s list of priorities.

Big things were expected of the 19-year-old centre-back when he finally moved to Emirates Stadium over the summer, one year after the Gunners parted with £27million to sign him.

But, after an injury-disrupted 2019-20 season on loan at Saint-Etienne, his start to life in England has not gone to plan. Saliba is still yet to make his Arsenal debut and is reported to be growing frustrated with his lack of action. He has not been included in Arsenal’s Europa League squad, which has limited his opportunities, and recently he has been with their Under-23s.

That is hardly the start Saliba would have hoped for, not least when you consider he was training on his own at Arsenal as early as July in a bid to get ready for the new season.

The Frenchman is clearly hungry to make an impression, but manager Mikel Arteta has been reluctant to give him game time.

The Spaniard has pointed out how Saliba didn’t have “the transition year” he needed last season at Saint-Etienne because injury problems, and the cancellation of the Ligue 1 season due to the pandemic, limited him to just 15 appearances.

It is why Arsenal wanted to loan him back to Saint-Etienne this summer. But they could not reach a deal with the French club and the collapse of that move has caused frustrations on both sides.

Saliba’s have emerged from reports in France, while Arteta has publicly spoken about his own.

“I am fed up with the situation because as you could see we tried to find a way in the last few days [of the transfer window] to give him some football,” said Arteta.

“I explained that he needed that transition year when we decided to buy him and send him on loan to Saint-Etienne, for many reasons that didn’t happen, he didn’t have that transition year and he needs to go through that.”

The key for Saliba and Arsenal now is that the situation is rectified in January.

Talks are planned ahead of the transfer window to ensure the right outcome is reached and he could go on loan again to get more game time.

That feels like the right solution, primarily because it would enable the teenager to get back the half-a-campaign of football he lost last season.

<p>Saliba played 15 games for Saint-Etienne last season</p>AFP via Getty Images

Saliba played 15 games for Saint-Etienne last season

AFP via Getty Images

Saliba needs competitive minutes on the pitch for his development and, while Arsenal may not be the right environment for him for now, it is crucial he finds somewhere that is.

There will be those who say Arteta should just throw Saliba in now but the Spaniard sees him every day in training and clearly does not feel he is ready.

A number of factors can make it difficult for a young player to settle abroad, not least the language barrier. It is understood Saliba is improving his grasp of English and that is allowing him to have a greater understanding of the way Arteta wants Arsenal to play.

The big question is, when will we see Saliba play for Arsenal? There is a growing chance that may not be until next season, but there is no need to panic.

Scouts, youth coaches and former players have all raved about Saliba and it feels like there will be a moment for him to shine.

January feels like a crucial time to bring the moment closer and Arsenal need to make sure Saliba gets to finish the “transition year” he never had.

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