Saliba set for meeting with Arteta and Arsenal senior figures to discuss January plans

Saliba meeting approaches

French media this morning are reporting that William Saliba is due to leave Arsenal on loan in January. A report by L’Equipe, who describe the relationship between the Frenchman and Arsenal as a ‘failed marriage,’ says that a meeting is scheduled to determine the 19-year-old’s short-term future.

Saliba arrived at Arsenal in 2019 for £27 million from St Etienne. The then 18-year old French youth international returned to his boyhood club on loan for the remainder of the season.

However, due to injury and the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Saliba was unable to play consistently across the season which interrupted much of his development needed for a return to start for Arsenal.

William Saliba

Montpellier’s French forward Gaitan Laborde (L) vies with Saint-Etienne’s French defender William Saliba (R) during the French L1 football match between Saint-Etienne (ASSE) and Montpellier (MHSC) on May 10, 2019, at the Geoffroy Guichard Stadium in Saint-Etienne, central France. (Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP) (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)

Mikel Arteta has therefore been reluctant to include Saliba in his senior side and the Frenchman has been playing with the youth team in the under-23 competitions.

Now, as reported by L’Equipe, his agent is flying into London in the coming days to discuss his immediate future and determine what January will hold for his client. Arsenal are supposedly interested in sending the youngster out on loan next month to get some first-team senior experience with the likelihood he could return in the summer and therefore be much better positioned to play for the first team.

St Etienne are expected to once again be interested but there is also the option to move to an English club to help acclimatise to the rigors of the Premier League.

The handling of Saliba

Questions will be raised as to whether Arsenal handled William Saliba’s situation correctly. The short answer is obviously no.

To spend a significant amount of money on a young player to then have him play all of his games for the youth team without even a call-up to the Premier League squad, let alone the starting line-up, will do nothing for the player’s confidence. Be that in himself or in the club that bought him.

The bottom line is that the club should have organised a loan for the player in the summer and the evidence suggests that the opportunity was there for Saliba to return to St Etienne. Manager Claude Puel even spoke about how the clubs had pretty much agreed everything and it was Arsenal that let down the player on the final day of the window.

Beyond that though, the question has to be asked why Saliba has not been used in the squad at all. Here at 101, we put together a tactical analysis of the Frenchman’s performance against Gillingham in the EFL trophy.

There was evidence that the passing was erratic and positionally Saliba got into risky situations, even deserving of a red card towards the end of the match for taking out the last man. There was however plenty of positives especially defensively with his tackling and presence.

Saliba also received a red card in their most recent EFL trophy match against Wimbledon. Earning a second yellow for a lunging tackle battling for a loose ball.

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 30: William Saliba of Arsenal during the Premier League 2 match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Meadow Park on October 30, 2020 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 30: William Saliba of Arsenal during the Premier League 2 match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Meadow Park on October 30, 2020 in Borehamwood, England. (Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

It could be that the club has looked at these performances and determined Saliba is not yet ready for the rigors of senior football in England.

Still, it is difficult to support the opposite argument when a player such as Shkodran Mustafi is sitting on the bench for Arsenal and is yet to sign a new deal and will therefore leave the club for free in the summer.

Why continue to invest in a player that is unlikely to be around in 6 months’ time when the club has just invested £27 million in a very exciting promising defender?

A loan for Saliba will be good, hopefully he can refine plenty of his passing abilities and return to the side with a greater amount of experience with a greater determination to prove his worth to the Arsenal coaching staff.

Saliba set to stay with Arsenal until at least January / What’s the potential impact?

Tactical Insight: William Saliba – The evidence as to why Mikel Arteta is not yet ready to throw the Frenchman into the Arsenal first team

Saliba set for meeting with Arteta and Arsenal senior figures to discuss January plans