By Tom Canton
Published: July 3, 2021 11:33 am
Last Updated: July 3, 2021 11:39 am
Saliba likely to leave on loan
The last 24-hours involving William Saliba has been a rollercoaster for many Arsenal fans hoping to see him play for the club next season.
It was initially announced that he would not be joining up with the French Olympic squad for the 2021 tournament. This therefore sent Arsenal fans into a spate of optimism that he may therefore get a full pre-season with the Gunners before a decision would be made on his short-term future.
Breaking | New France squad for the Olympics revealed – William Saliba (Arsenal), Amine Gouiri (Nice), Malang Sarr (Chelsea), Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes) & Maxence Caqueret (Lyon) among those withdrawn. More follows.
— Get French Football News (@GFFN) July 2, 2021
However this was not to be as it was then reported by the Athletic’s David Ornstein that after discussions with the club the 20-year old had picked Marseille as his destination for next season to spend the year on loan.
🚨 Exclusive: Arsenal defender William Saliba looks set to join Marseille on loan. Not done but 20yo has picked #OM from many options & now clubs need to agree deal. #AFC want him to get full season playing — still part of long-term thinking @TheAthleticUK https://t.co/RemZlyyb5J
— David Ornstein (@David_Ornstein) July 2, 2021
Arsenal fans were left frustrated knowing it would be yet another year at least before seeing the £27 million man play in an Arsenal shirt.
Why the loan move makes sense
William Saliba has been unable to play a new consistent full season with a club over the last 3 years.
In his final season as a permanent Saint-Etienne player, he broke into the team and played 16 times across the season.
Bought by Arsenal, he returned on loan to continue his development but due to injuries and the curtailing of Ligue 1 due to the pandemic, he only managed 12 appearances.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2020, Saliba was unable to secure a loan move away from the club after Mikel Arteta had deemed Saliba ‘not ready’ for the Premier League season. He spent the first half of the campaign playing frustratingly with the under-23s before a 6-month loan back to France with Nice.
He performed well alongside Jean-Claire Todibo, but still looked raw in certain areas, completely understandable for a player of his age.
Now he looks set to leave the club on loan again and in all honesty, it makes a lot of sense.
Arsenal have been linked with a £50 million move for Brighton’s Ben White, a right sided centre-half by trade. Whilst Saliba can play on the left, both Gabriel Magalhaes and Pablo Mari are considered the first choices there.
Saliba needs to play. It isn’t about being rated lower than Rob Holding, who is 25, under a long-term deal and the coach knows what he will get from him which, as shown this season, are consistent performances. Saliba needs to show what he can do across a full season and that will not happen as a back-up to a £50 million signing.
A loan, whilst certainly frustrating for fans who have wanted to see him in the red and white for 2-plus years, is a sensible outcome. However, a final caveat is that an extension to protect the club’s financial interests should be a priority.
Why Marseille is the wrong choice
Saliba has played in France and proven to be a competent and exciting talent there. Far from the final product, very few are at 20, but the French league is a comfortable place for him.
Ornstein’s report outlines that Saliba “picked” Marseille from a host of clubs interested.
This is disappointing. A loan to a Premier League club, with both Newcastle and Southampton touted as interested parties, would have been far better.
Being able to compete in the league of his parent club, leaving little to no doubt as to how he would cope with the rigours of the English top flight.
Furthermore from a cultural aspect, Saliba being able to spend a season in England and learning his craft under EPL coaches and teammates. What can another season in France do to that aspect of his game?
Would minutes have been more limited for him? Arguably, but if he isn’t good enough to force his way into a Newcastle or Southampton defence, is he therefore the right man to be at the heart of Arsenal’s for the foreseeable future?
The loan destination, whilst not finalised, at this stage looks a shame. Should it go through and he becomes a Marseille man, the added benefit of European football can hopefully show some new challenges.
It is a huge year. Saliba needs minutes and consistent ones at that. Should this be achieved, the following summer will be the big reveal as to where he stands in Arsenal’s plans.
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