William Saliba could be Arsenal’s first-team star next season

Mikel Arteta has said defender William Saliba is in his plans for next season and challenged the defender to establish himself as a first-team regular at Arsenal.

Saliba arrived at the Emirates in 2019 from Saint-Etienne on a £27m deal but has yet to play a competitive game for the club.

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He was immediately loaned out to Saint-Etienne before spending further temporary loan spells at Nice and Marseille.

Salibia, 21, excelled last season and was named Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year after appearing in almost all of Marseille’s 38 league appearances.

He has since returned to Arsenal and is set to feature in Saturday’s pre-season friendly against Everton in Baltimore.

“He’s in the plans,” Arteta said. “We cannot guarantee first-team football to anyone in this team – you can ask anyone that question.

“What we guarantee is that the ones we see and really think about are going to take us to the next level, they’re going to play a lot of minutes.

“He’s a real talent and he showed last year what he can do. But in football it’s about what you do the next day – what everyone did three years ago. month or a month, it doesn’t really matter. It’s about what you do tomorrow and he gets a chance to play.”

Saliba’s road to the first team has been far from straightforward, including the last-minute collapse of a second loan spell at Saint-Etienne in 2020 – a failure the French club say was due to the fact that Arsenal failed to complete the paperwork in time – which left him training with Arsenal’s Under-23 team for over three months before moving to Nice.

“The communication and honesty we had between us was always very clear – I never promised minutes,” Arteta added.

“I was very clear from the start what to expect, we made the decision to wait a few months [to see] if that situation could change, it didn’t and then we have to make a decision and we made the right choice — those six months when he left, then the next year.

“I think he has improved in many areas, first of all because he has an incredible number of minutes last year. He played at a very good level. He was trained with a coach different in a different league and now it’s about putting all those things together for the way we want to play and in our league which is a very different context, he has to show that now.

“I think he looked really confident and all that time he spent abroad built that confidence in him, which is really important. Don’t forget how old he still is. – how many players his age play as a centre-back at a top Premier League club?

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