Was William Saliba’s signing shrewd or stupid?
When Arsenal spent £27 million on an 18-year-old rookie centerback William Saliba in 2019, it sent a message to the footballing world that this is a different Arsenal who are ready to outsmart the market.
The fanfare around him was natural. A huge financial commitment on a player has it’s own excitement, but there are many downsides to it too.
Arsenal similarly broke their transfer record for Ivory Coast international Nicolas Pepe. The winger has evidently failed to reach the heights that were expected of him.
But what if he had signed for less than half of the £72m Arsenal forked out in a flash?
The case of Saliba is different to his counterpart.
Kieran Tierney – 23
Gabriel Magalhães – 23
Joe Willock – 21
William Saliba – 20
Emile Smith Rowe – 20
Gabriel Martinelli – 19
Bukayo Saka – 19
Folarin Balogun – 19
We absolutely need to build around these players. The future is brighter fro Arsenal than many people may think. pic.twitter.com/phPvhEVVOO
— Gunners (@Gunnersc0m) May 19, 2021
When Arsenal bought the young Frenchman, it was only his first breakthrough season in men’s football. He was just 18. Carrying a 30-million-pound price tag on your shoulders isn’t easy.
At present, the deal for the French youth international looks even worse when you consider that he has spent two seasons on loan already.
With Arsenal being linked to Ben White, it might turn into three.
A lot of Arsenal fans want Saliba instead of White, including me. He might save Arsenal millions. But there are always two sides to a story.
Saliba is still very young for a central defender. How many centerbacks of the ‘Under-21’ category can you name who play for the big names in Europe? Sevilla’s Jules Kounde, Bayern Munich’s Dayot Upamecano and Liverpool’s new recruit Ibrahim Konate might come to your mind.
But they all are 22 years old. Clubs did not come to them and offer huge money when they were still teenagers and pretty much rookies.
David Luiz has officially left so his ball playing & leadership skills need to be replaced. IMO William Saliba is the perfect man for the job. Here's an in-depth look at his loan with Nice & what he can offer #AFC next year if Arteta is willing to use himhttps://t.co/loSteUEqMP
— Kaya Kaynak (@kayakaynak97) June 4, 2021
While some may argue that Arsenal did a good job by signing Saliba before their competitors got their hands on him. But was it too naïve from the club’s board to spend an astonishing fee on a teenager?
Arsenal are not the Chelseas or Manchester Citys who can afford the current situation the North London outfit find themselves in. They cannot just splash the cash on a player who won’t even play the first two years of his contract.
It is true that Edu and Mikel Arteta have ‘overvalued’ experience over talent since their arrival. Signing Willian and giving a contract extension to David Luiz last summer were a testament.
Gambling and spending money on younsters in and around the 5-15 million range is a completely different story. Arsenal have bought Gabriel Martinelli, Matteo Guendouzi for a combined fee of 13 million.
The duo may be joined up by Sami Lokonga, who is still 21. But their transfer fees isn’t anywhere close to what Arsenal paid for William Saliba.
At this point of time, we can definitely say that it was a poor deal by the Gunners.
Only if Mikel Arteta plays him regularly next season and Saliba shines will this deal be considered somewhat better.
But this is a mistake which the club cannot afford to make the second time. ‘Splashing out 30 million on a player who didn’t even play the first two years’ sounds diabolical.
I just hope that things work out for Saliba at Arsenal, because it’s clear that he has the potential to be one of the best centerbacks in the world, let alone Europe.
Do you think getting Saliba was a shrewd buy or an expensive mistake?