Mikel Arteta says he never had any doubts about William Saliba’s desire to prove himself at Arsenal and insists the plan was always to reintegrate the centre-back into the first team squad following his loan spell with Marseille.
The Ligue 1 side were so pleased with Saliba’s development during his 12 months at the Stade Velodrome that they wanted to keep the player but the Gunners were quick to rebuff the enquiry.
“The reality is that he was very convinced and determined to come here,” Arteta told reporters ahead of the clash with Leicester.
“He had no other choice (in his head), he never suggested anything else.
“From the first conversations I had with him, you could see that he only had one intention – to come here and start to play football matches for Arsenal.”
After impressing in pre-season, Saliba made his long-awaited competitive debut in the season opener at Crystal Palace and, after helping his side to a clean sheet, was awarded the man of the match award.
Already a fully-fledged France international, he is a very exciting prospect. At the same time, Arteta is wary of everyone getting carried away.
“I think expectations and positive expectations are created when you see something special in a player and it’s obvious: they’ve seen that, they see the talent,” he noted.
“What I would say is, instead of doing that, just protect the player. Let’s protect him, let’s make sure he has the right environment to fulfil his potential and when things don’t go that well that we are as good as we are when things are going well.”
Arteta also channelled his inner Arsene Wenger by openly stating that blooding youngsters can come at a cost.
Arteta told reporters ahead of the clash with Leicester. , the Frenchman remarked: “You pay for the education of young players with points. I play a young central defender of 20-years-old and I know he will cost me points in the season. I have to stand up for that.”
Arteta’s take is very similar.
“Mistakes are part of football at 21 and 35,” he said. “They’re going to happen, the mistakes that we want to happen are as much as possible on the training field and if they happen on the pitch they don’t cause you goals. That’s the objective. But inevitably, things will happen.
“I always said that especially with the young and development portfolio of players that we have in our squad, you have to pay a bill. And that bill is that at some stage they’re going to make mistakes, they’re going to experience things for the first time and they have to go through that process.”
Arteta had earlier been asked about Saliba’s contract situation and whether the club were in talks over a new deal. He wouldn’t be drawn on the specifics of talks but did hint that he has to show the player some love after an unusual start to his Arsenal career.