Mikel Arteta says he wasn’t sure how William Saliba would cope when he was reintegrated into the Arsenal first team following his loan spell with Marseille and revealed he deliberately didn’t speak to the 21-year-old for a week at the start of pre-season while he tested his progress and mindset.
The Spaniard needn’t have worried. Within two training sessions, he realised the defender, who’d won Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Year award while away, could add something to his team and wasn’t harbouring any grudges about his previous lack of opportunities.
Saliba had initially joined the Gunners for £27 million from Saint-Etienne during Unai Emery’s tenure and was immediately loaned back to his boyhood club for the Covid-hit 2019/20 season.
Arsenal later denied the player a chance to play in the delayed Coupe de France final, failed to organise a second loan for the start of the 2020/21 season and left him in the reserves for several months until he went to Nice in January 2020 for six months.
When a season-long arrangement with Marseille was agreed in July 2021, it felt like the centre-back might never play for the Gunners but Arteta says the club’s patience has been rewarded with a “beautiful relationship”.
“The first question was how the player is going to reintegrate into our dynamic after being out for so long,” said Arteta.
“Is there some frustration there, something personal between, for example, between me and the player because he could not understand that?
“Or his environment, his expectations coming back or the amount that we paid for him, his age, is it the same to do it in France as it is to do it in this League for Arsenal because you don’t have 21-year-old defenders at the top level in England?
He added: “For the first week I didn’t speak to him. I just wanted to see – naturally, without me really interfering in his thoughts – how he was. Because then you can understand the real him and after that I spoke to him.
“His attitude, the way he came in and said: ‘I’m going to prove that I’m very good and I deserve to be here.’
“Without any looking back or being shy, he was doing it the right way and giving the right reasons to think that he was going to be really good for us.
“He had an immediate impact. The first two training sessions that we looked at home we went: ‘There’s huge potential here’.
“He took out every question mark that we could have with him and gave us all the reasons to play him. And I think he’s been exceptional since that day.”
Arteta also joked about the pressure from fans to play Saliba whose performances in France had, at times, gone viral. When he finally made his debut during the pre-season tour of the States, every touch was cheered from the terraces.
“I was 100 per cent sure that I was going to have a lot of pressure externally to give him the opportunity – that was for sure,” said the manager.
“And obviously I was really willing to find out what we found out in pre-season. Then it was the perfect storm and a beautiful relationship started to build there.
“I have to be fair with myself, I have to put players that I feel can do the role, especially in that role in defence.
“But I was hoping it was the right decision and the decision we took – against probably a lot of opinions – to send him another year on loan, paid off.
“And that it was the right timing now to bring him back. But I have questions that I could be totally wrong as well.”
Sign da ting!
No denying Saliba’s future here wasn’t looking good for a while. He could have been well pissed off with some of the things that happened but fair play to both him & Arteta. He came back bearing no grudges & has done the business on the field & Arteta, despite lots of criticism, has been proven right in how he dealt with the situation.
Agreed, though Mikel will be proved 100% right once Saliba signs up again (like Saka, will be a beautiful moment when he does).
I’m still worried that he won’t but hope he does!
What makes you think he won’t? Just curious
There were links with PSG, search online to see. I’m pretty sure he will stay (he has his own chant, the fans, team and manager love him) but won’t be 100% until he does it. That’s the problem with uncertainty, it doesn’t go away until there is certainty.
I am very happy how everything has turned out but to be honest I think the club really gets away with this if he signs. Saying Arteta was 100% right is just not true, the situation was handled very poorly from Arsenal if you ask me.
I don’t know who downvoted but this is accurate! If Saliba doesn’t sign that thing, I understand him on perosnal level. No one should be treated like that by their employers. Just look at Oedegaard, he made his decision to move forward, a smart one also.
However, in Salibas case, letting bygones be bygones can be the smart thing. Being with a club with young and promising players, playing to become the best in the world the next 5-10 years, is a better environment than PSG or Madrid.
I agree with you. The result can still be missing a world class talent. I think he will eventually sign, but this does not mean MA being 100% right. Everyone learns.
Yeah I think it’s fair to say Arteta is a far better manager today than in his first 18 months or so. It’s natural as he gains experience I suppose, but in reality it seems much harder to predict a manager’s trajectory than a player’s
As with Edu
I hope they’d do things a bit differently when we sign our next 18 year old with world class potential
Agree and I am sure they will, there are so many positives and clear evidence of them improving all the time. Feels like the club is in ar really good place as a whole from top to bottom.
His best days are still ahead of him. Still has much to learn but the potential is there for all to see. Arteta is polishing the diamond in the rough.
He is a major reason this club are finally genuinely challenging for a Premiership title for the first time in nearly two decades. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: centre halve partnerships like the one he shares with Gabriel do not grow on trees. They’re the best since Toure and Campbell. Let’s not wait another two decades for another one to come along – get this lad signed up now on a long term contract with a salary befitting his talent. £180k-£200k a week is nothing compared to the millions this club have forked out since 2008 on… Read more »