A lot has been said over the last 24 months about what is happening with William Saliba at Arsenal. So far once it is actually interesting to hear from the young Frenchman himself.
“I’m the one who chose to go to Marseille, they [Arsenal] preferred that I go to England, but I knew that coming here was the right choice, so I really pushed for this.”
This is actually quite disappointing and in its isolation would perhaps lead you to be quite critical of Saliba.
Arsenal wanted Saliba to play Premier League football. The thinking would be that 38 games in England’s top flight would show to everyone what standard he is.
Instead Saliba chose to return to France for a 3rd loan spell. It would be easy to label him a “coward” and deciding “the easy life in France” rather than playing at a higher level in Premier League.
“I spoke with the coach [Jorge Sampaoli] and Pablo [Longoria, OM president], and I was quickly convinced.”
I guess the question comes down to “what club did Arsenal want Saliba to join”.
Early reports were that Arsenal were lining him up for a move to Newcastle.
That would have seen Saliba playing under Steve Bruce. Not exactly an inspiring coach to work under.
Meanwhile Jorge Sampaoli is the man who took Chile to Copa America glory back in 2015 and had a spell managing Argentina.
Given the choice between playing under Sampaoli or Bruce, there is only really one logical answer. Sampaoli.
“I’m young, I’m 20 and I haven’t proven anything yet. I still have many aspects to fix and areas in which I can progress.”
This final quote is what has made me warm further towards Saliba.
He recognises that he is not ready yet. That he has yet to prove anything. That he is still young and has plenty to improve on.
Mikel Arteta has been heavily criticised for not giving Saliba a chance, but in the Frenchman’s own word he is not ready yet.
It is easy to forget that Saliba is just 20.
This is 3 years into a 5 year deal with Arsenal.
If Arsenal have an option to extend a year, it would make a lot of sense for him to play the season in France under Sampaoli, and then get his English loan deal. At that point he might be looking at a better club than Newcastle. Better coach than Bruce.
At which point he returns to Arsenal. Just 22. 2 years left on his deal and ready to fit for first team football.
Taking in isolation with just the first quote, Saliba will be criticised. But with the full picture in his own words it is hard not to agree with his viewpoint.