When Arsenal spent £27 million on William Saliba, it was thought the Frenchman would integrate quickly. The first team beckoned and Arsenal’s defensive frailties seemed in need of rejuvenation.
However, several games into the season and the European transfer window has closed. Saliba remains in the Arsenal squad without any senior minutes.
Mikel Arteta has spoken in detail about how the transition year planned for the Frenchman was interrupted. The plan had been that the season in France with St Etienne would enable Saliba time to further develop.
“He had a year last year where Arsenal loaned him to St Etienne and that was a transition year for him,” Mikel Arteta said.
“For many reasons, that wasn’t the transition year that he needed because he had a lot of injuries, some personal injuries and also with COVID and the French league getting cancelled, he didn’t have that year.
“He needs that year of transition and we are trying to make the right decisions for him to give him the best transitional year for him to have the player we want in our future.”
It was revealed that Saliba had been omitted from Arsenal’s Europa League squad alongside Mesut Ozil and Sokratis.
This appeared to confirm the unlikelihood that the 19-year-old would remain with the Gunners. With Rapid Vienna, Molde and Dundalk in Arsenal’s group, these appeared the perfect opportunities to give Saliba minutes.
Arsenal’s early Carabao Cup ties were against Leicester City and Liverpool. Meaning Arteta couldn’t risk an unproven talent against some of the Premier League’s best.
Arsenal’s German goalkeeper Bernd Leno saves a shot from Liverpool’s Portuguese striker Diogo Jota during the English League Cup fourth round football match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on October 1, 2020. (Photo by Peter Byrne / AFP) /(Photo by PETER BYRNE/AFP via Getty Images)
Brentford will be looking to push for promotion and with Pontus Jansson the starting right centre-back, minutes for Saliba may still be hard to come by. Meanwhile, the young Ben Wilmot (20) and the experienced Craig Cathcart (31) have both been used as the right-sided centre-half in a back three for Watford.
There lies a greater opportunity for Saliba to stake a claim. With just days left however, there appears little time for Arsenal to find an opportunity.