William Saliba is set to spend next season on loan at Olympique Marseille according to David Ornstein at The Athletic. At the start of the summer, he was expected to participate in Arsenal preseason and vie for a spot in the centerback rotation. But another Ligue Un loan was always a possibility — it’s clear that Saliba is rated much higher, at least right now, by those in French football compared to those making the decisions at Arsenal.
Ornstein points out, however, that Saliba is “still part of the long-term thinking” at Arsenal and that the club want him to get another full season of first-team, senior playing experience. It’s been somewhat rough sledding for Saliba since joining the Gunners in June 2019 during Raul Sanllehi and Unai Emery’s time in charge. He spent part of his time on-loan back to Saint Étienne injured, then grieving the passing of his mother, and then COVID happened just as he was regaining fitness. Last season, Arsenal couldn’t work out a loan deal in the summer window, so he spent half the season with just appearances for the U23’s to his name before his loan to Nice in January.
When Saliba returns to the Emirates after next season, he’ll have two years left on his contract with the club, and Arsenal have tried to make a habit of not letting players hit the final year of their deal without an extension in place or moving on.
So what will Arsenal do? What will Saliba want? It’s tough to imagine him wanting to stay at the Emirates given how things have gone since Arsenal bought him. Add to that Arsenal’s likely addition of Ben White / somebody else at RCB because right now, they’ve got Rob Holding and likely starting RB Calum Chambers on the depth chart, and it’s tough to see how Saliba fits into the picture. Without getting too far into hypotheticals, it’s looking as if the Gunners will have spent £27M on a CB prospect who doesn’t play a competitive match for the club and may not fetch that price in the world of post-COVID finances.
Mikel Arteta and Edu have a specific idea of what they want in remaking the Arsenal roster. It feels like William Saliba does not fit their mold, even though ball progression seems to something they’re looking for and something Saliba does well. As much as we’d like to see him get a shot in North London and as highly as other football minds seem to rate him, it’s tough to ignore the writing on the wall — Mikel Arteta does not rate William Saliba.