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Mikel Arteta sends clear William Saliba message

“He has to come back.”

UEFA Europa Conference League semi-final”Olympique de Marseille v Feyenoord Rotterdam” Photo by ANP via Getty Images

Mikel Arteta has made his plans for William Saliba as clear as day, “he has to come back.” Speaking with RMCSport, Arteta explained why Arsenal sent Saliba out on loan and stood by the decision. And can you blame him? Saliba played all but one match in Ligue Un this season, earned a call-up to the French National Team, and won Young Player of the Year. None of that happens if he’s in a timeshare / riding the pine behind Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes in North London.

He has to come back. He has the experience and the [mindset] necessary to be competitive with us. If he had stayed with us this year, with one Premier League game per week, and with Ben White and Gabriel, he wouldn’t have had half the playing time he had with Marseille, that’s for sure. For his growth and what he can do next season that wouldn’t have been good.

William wasn’t with us because he wouldn’t have had the playing time to gain experience.

That’s it, there’s nothing else.

That last part may be a nod to some of the reported friction between Saliba and Arteta / Arsenal, which hopefully both sides have moved beyond. In my estimation, it all boiled down to Saliba, as young players are wont to do, thinking that he was ready and wanting a chance to prove himself and Arteta thinking he wasn’t ready for the Premier League.

There is always the possibility that Arteta’s comments are a bargaining tactic / market maneuvering from Arteta and Arsenal — say very loudly that you plan to keep Saliba around so that suitors pay more. A not-so-small stumbling block and another reason why I think Saliba will be at Arsenal next season is that Marseille (and pretty much any French club not named Paris St. Germain) probably can’t afford him. The only number I’ve seen for Saliba is £30M. That seems low and almost certainly isn’t coming from Arsenal. They shouldn’t even pick up the phone for less than twice that number.

My gut is telling me that William Saliba is going to be in North London next season. Will he be an every match starter like he said he wanted to be back in the fall? Almost certainly not. Will he play a significant number of matches? I think so.

Keep Saliba at Arsenal. Extend his contract - he’s entering the final two years of his deal. Maybe bring in a young, quality LCB. And you’ve got centerback locked-in at the club for the next five years.