Mikel Arteta is wary of the hype surrounding William Saliba given the injury problems the 19-year-old defender has had to contend with this season.
Arsenal spent the best part of £27 million recruiting the France under-20 international from Saint-Etienne before loaning him back to the Ligue 1 side who, under financial incentive, promised to give him as much game time as possible.
Over the course of the year, his legend has grown despite being restricted to 16 starts out of a possible
He missed the opening seven games of the league season with a hamstring problem, played five on the bounce and was then ruled out for another nine with a fractured metatarsal.
While attention has focused on him helping Les Verts to the Coupe de France final – which he may or may not play in – less has been written about him marshalling the defence of a side that failed to win any of their final seven games before the campaign was prematurely curtailed due to Covid-19.
Ahead of Saturday’s trip to Wolves, the boss was asked about the prospect of working with Saliba.
“I am excited to work with him but I am worried about the expectations because I know how difficult it is to play as a central defender in this country,” he told Sky Sports.
“It is one of the most complicated positions here. The step is really, really big. William had a really positive season last year, but he has had a really difficult one this year with injuries. We know where the potential is, but to fulfil that potential every three days at the highest level is a different task.”
Saliba has already met with Arteta and his new teammates when he visited London Colney for rehab and medical assessments. Now he has to prove himself.
“He is, in my opinion, in phase one or two of his development,” says Arteta.
“He has a lot of things to learn but hopefully, we can give him the right environment to make that process very quick.
“I know the player. He has the right mentality, the right attitude, the right physique. But he needs to fit in and that’s something nobody knows until the moment he lands in that dressing room.”