Arteta defends Arsenal’s Saliba plan with pre-season star to finally make debut

Saliba joined Arsenal in the summer of 2019 from Saint-Etienne for around £28million but is still yet to make his competitive debut.

The centre-back has instead been loaned out repeatedly by the Gunners, with the latest of those spells coming last season when he was sent to Marseille.

Saliba excelled in the south of France, winning Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Season and making his international debut, and he has returned to Arsenal this summer.

The 21-year-old has been a regular for Arsenal in pre-season and he is expected to start the season opener against Crystal Palace on Friday, with Arteta praising his form since returning from loan.

“I am really happy in how he’s adapted,” said Arteta. “Obviously it’s always something that you have to see, spending a year away from here in a completely different league.

“But playing the amount of minutes that he played and the way you could see he was growing and developing, he gave us a lot of reasons that he could be the player that we need.

“And in the last few weeks, he’s given us every reason to believe that we made the right decision, loaning him for a year because he now looks ready to go.

“In our opinion, it’s not just my opinion, he needed that exposure. You don’t see players at 18 or 19 years old playing at their highest level in top clubs. It just doesn’t happen.

William Saliba is finally set for his Arsenal debut

/ Arsenal FC via Getty Images

“We, as a club, a few years ago made a big investment because we believed he could be a player who could make a significant impact in our team and we believe again that the best way to do it is to give him a pathway that we couldn’t give him here, especially because we didn’t have Europe so he wouldn’t play so many minutes or very few minutes.

“Now we have a very different context and hopefully that will prove that for him and for the club it was the right decision. But at the time, I understand that we get criticised.”

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