William Saliba has been officially loaned to Ligue Un side Olympique Marseille for the 2021-22 season, as confirmed on Arsenal.com. Presumably, he’ll get significant playing time to help his development on loan that he would not get at Arsenal this season, especially with the rumored Ben White purchase. Saliba has yet to play a competitive match for Arsenal — he was immediately loaned back to St. Etienne when Arsenal bought him in 2019 and he spent the second half of last season on loan at Nice after playing a handful of matches for the Arsenal U23 squad.
There was initially some talk that the loan move would have an option or even an obligation to buy, but the most recent reporting from the Arsenal beat writers is that the loan does NOT have a buy clause. Saliba will return to Arsenal at the end of the season with two years remaining on his contract. Next summer, selling or signing him to an extension will be a top priority for Edu & company. [EDIT: Saliba’s deal does not expire until 2024, which gives him three more years on the current contract, two when he returns from this loan.]
Saliba is 20 years old — he has plenty of room to develop and still has significant transfer value should he or the club decide it’s best to part ways. His time at Arsenal has been difficult. He arrived to much fanfare, albeit under a previous regime, and has struggled to find a place under Mikel Arteta. It’s pretty clear that Arteta does not rate him as highly as others in the football world do, especially in France, and Saliba, I think, is not thrilled with the way things have gone / how he has been treated at Arsenal.
I’m sure this will be the last time we have to write about William Saliba this season. There is no way there will be recriminations in the Arsenal discourse every time he has a good game. Or the likely-to-be-bought Ben White has a bad one. Or another roster gap turns up that the club couldn’t afford to fill in the transfer window.
But seriously, here’s hoping he has a great season in France. Strong play can be a panacea.