Should Arsenal come clean over the William Saliba debacle?

Do We Need Clarity Over Saliba? By Dan Smith

On the surface a 19-year-old being sent out on loan for first team football makes sense. Yet William Saliba is someone we paid 27 million for, a player predicted to be France’s next big thing.

He was so important to Saint Etienne, they asked if his loan could be extended (due to Covid) so he could play in the French Cup Final. More crucially, Arsenal cared so much about protecting their asset, they said no.

Due to the Pandemic seeing Ligue 1 cancelled in March, Saliba got to spend months training and getting to know his teammates.

Common sense would say that something in that period has happened, for Mikel Arteta to have serious doubts about a signing made by the previous regime.

Remember our manager’s strengths at Man City were said to be his ability to coach youth on a 1-to-1 level. Yet even when the Spaniard knew who our opponents were in our Europa League group, he wouldn’t trust the defender to include him in his European squad.

Just think about that.

A centre back who has already held his own against the likes of Mbappe, Neymar and Cavani, how could he now not be deemed good enough to even be on the bench against Molde and Dundalk?

It’s not like he has world class competition. Our defence is seen as our weakness, one that contributed to our worst league finish in 25 years.

You are not one moment good enough to play against the Champions League Finalists, then months later not good enough to even feature in UEFA’s secondary competition.

Yes, there would have been 5 months between the English season starting to when he last kicked a ball. Yet that didn’t stop Leicester from putting immediate faith in Fofana. Fofana was the defensive partner of Saliba. How can one play every week in the Premiership and the other not make the bench? It all points to this decision being non-football related.

As usual there is a lack of clarity at our club.

Without anyone telling us differently, we are meant to assume it’s like the Space Jam movie when the aliens put a spell on the ball and anyone who touches it, loses their powers.

It would be wrong to assume there have been any behaviour issues without any substance to that theory.

It’s been reported that the teenager lost both his parents.

Some things are bigger then football. No fan has a divine right to have personal details about someone’s personal life, nor judge how they should grieve. The idea of my mum passing away is unthinkable, I wouldn’t know how to function.

Now imagine both your parents dying in a short period of time. Oh and you’re a teenager. Oh and your moving to a new country.

The player himself hasn’t supported that theory by what he’s posted on social media. While he hasn’t disrespected his employers, he clearly would be playing if he had his way (while it hasn’t put off other clubs from wanting him).

That doesn’t mean he should be playing of course. Maybe staff have noticed he’s not mentally ready but the player himself can’t see it?

A loan to Nice does seem designed more for his comfort then his development. If it were about preparing him for the physicality of English Football, he would be sent to the Championship. Instead he’s allowed to go back to his homeland, a culture he knows, a League he’s played in, surrounded by Friends and Family.

It’s not like he has anything to prove as we already know he can succeed at that level and doing that the 1st time round hasn’t made a difference.

If a 19-year-old is recovering from a broken heart and emotionally or mentally he needs to return home, then his welfare is bigger than a sporting contest. It does beg the question why they waited until now to do that, paying him to sit at home for months in a City he’s unfamiliar with.

While a teenager’s personal life should remain confidential, it would be nice in the next few days to get some reassurance from Arteta that long term Saliba’s future is in North London. It’s not like our manager has stressed that’s the case.

While there is zero option to buy for Nice, some reports have emerged that the player would have been open to a permanent transfer.

If he carries on for Nice where he left off for Saint Etienne, it’s only natural that questions will be asked, especially if a Mustafi or David Luiz are struggling.

Maybe Arsenal have been over protective? Maybe it’s good that they have set standards so high?

Maybe it makes business sense to loan to a club willing to cover the entire salary?

What I do know is; if Saliba has another good season in France and he still can’t get in an Arsenal squad then that’s when we will need clarity. Because at that point he will be on course to be our biggest waste of money of all time.

Be Kind In The Comments


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  1. Dan Smith, thank you for this well drafted and reasoned article, which mirrors my thoughts exactly on William Saliba.
    There are questions to be answered on Arsenal’s treatment of Saliba and, in particular, Mikel Arteta’s involvement/compliance in the actions taken.

    1. Though I have just skimmed over the article, I see it’s not different from what Dan wrote before about Arsenal’s treatment of Mesut on which you always leaped into the defence of Mikel’s lack of transparency citing he can do what he sees fit because he is the one who is responsible for the results.

      Why are there questions to be answered from Arsenal and Mikel about Saliba’s treatment but you gave them free pass on Mesut?

      1. Arteta seems to have some kind of problem to be worked upon himself in as far as treatment of some players is concerned. Surely Luiz is no Ramos and is too error prone and like Mustafi no better than Saliba. Maybe he could have kept the young Saliba, giving him few minutes for his confidence. Just look at how Gabriel has settled, maybe if there were more influencial senior French Stars at the club it could have helped 🤔

      2. HH, the difference is that in the case of Mezut Ozil, it was obvious that his star had waned and he no longer offered more with the ball, than he did without it, in my opinion. Both Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta were both of that opinion, based on his non selection.
        In the case of William Saliba he has not been given an opportunity to show what he can do, apart from some preseason and U23’s games. This despite his rating as one of the best young players, let alone CB’s, in Europe, his natural attributes of height and pace, the price paid by Arsenal and the performance of his lesser rated CB partner Fofana at Leicester City.
        With Ozil there may be differing opinions on his football contributions, but all of us (including Emery and Arteta) have watched him play in an Arsenal shirt in the EPL; however the same can’t be said for Saliba.
        I don’t agree or disagree with an article written on justarsenal, based on the writer (even those by Dan Smith), but based on the content.

    2. I have dwelt on the treatment of Saliba excluding him while we have Luiz and Mustafi both of whom are defensive jokers. The question is why? Another question is, has this to do with Edu involvement that Arteta cant resist? Ee have 3 Brazillian CB and 2 are shall we say outdated. Mari is 30 something and prone to injuries and Luiz is Luiz, why do we prefer both? I think Salibas inclusion would exclude both and that’s where problems lie.

    3. Arteta did not sign him I think MA will get rid of him he is on about Lacca saying the age problem ..What about Auba is the oldest so I dont know what is in his mind or how it works

  2. I clearly feel as an organisation Arsenal FC has messed up William Saliba situation. While we do not have all the internal knowledge of what’s happening behind the scene. It does seem Arsenal FC has wasted 6 months of William Salibas footballing career. This has happened after the way we have messed up Serhe Ganabry situation. However in a big organisation mess ups happen. We all make mistakes. The bigger question I believe Arsenal FC has to address is are we going to allow our mistakes define us like we did on Serge Ganabry case. Or are we going to identify and acknowledge our mistake and have a clear plan on how we undo our mistake and ensure William Saliba again has confidence in Arsenal FC and would want to come back and play for the club. I hope we do the right thing and ego and power doesn’t come in our way.

  3. That’s a good point actually. Also maybe, sending him to St. Etienne would have been better because it is closer to his family? I dont feel it is completely clear what Arsenal are trying to do here. Whether they are giving him leeway to escape/develop in familiar surroundings or they are trying to get him off the wage bill and prepare him for a future sale. Also we dont know his place in MA’s long term plans, who has only given vague statements about WS. I just hope Arsenal don’t mess this up, because we genuinely secured a deal for a wonderful, defensive talent who is a giant and pacy as well, 2 years ago. If Dinos develops well in Germany and stays injury free, then I am excited about a fast, gigantic cb pairing of Dinos and William in the future.

  4. I read a report here in france some months back that his purchase price was based on appearances in the prem and Europe. It seems if he doesn’t play this year for us his price was closer to 15 not 27m .again just what i read in a local paper

    1. A good theory @Darthballz. I believe money can explain 99% the reasons why people do what they do but the club just recently paid Partey’s £45M release clause in a heartbeat. I don’t think this Saliba issue is about money. The coach dislikes him, plain and simple.

  5. It seems pretty simple to me. It’s come down to the numbers we have at the club and the lack of exits in the summer. I can’t see us getting another CB for a while. And even with pop and mistaking going we still have lots of CBs. Ideally Salina would of been loaned out last summer but it didn’t happen for whatever reason. Get over it, loan him out at Christmas and bring him back next year when we will have room in the squad.

  6. Personally I believe Arteta has seen his flaws and sees him not good enough for our first team .
    We have to remember that he was bought in by Emery and the chuckle brothers so maybe Mikel is trimming the the players left over from that disastrous reign ,we have already seen him get rid of 2 average players on loan in Torreira and Guendouzi and leaving Sok out of the team altogether ,I actually believe it’s the right way to do it ,he as full control so if it goes pear shaped there is no one else to blame but him .
    Emery couldn’t be trusted with players and we can all see why now ,so they have taken the different approach with Mikel
    It’s how it should be ,the manager having full control of ins and outs .

    1. Agreed. It seems clearer than some believe – Arteta does not rate him … and has too many central defenders already.

    2. @Dan Kit
      When did Arteta have the time to see the flaws in Saliba? He has not played for us. Even if he did somehow see the flaws, why can’t he work with him to improve his game. The boy was rated at £27M. How can he be suddenly so bad even the manager won’t touch him? Arteta is garbage. He is willing to tolerate Wilian’s flaws but not Saliba. Aubameyang’s and Willock’s disappearing acts but not Ozil’s.

        1. And just because he was rated at 27 mill means absolutely nothing .
          Have you actually seen him play a good amount of games ?because it sounds to me that you haven’t and all you have bought into the argument is his price tag .
          Like i said Arteta will be to blame if it all goes tits up ,I’m happy to follow his decisions he’s the boss .

          1. Re. above comments -manager having full control of ins and outs – I disagree. If you allow a short term manager to have full control, he will ignore young players and sign only experienced player in order to win now. Ins and outs should be the responsibility of the technical/sporting director with emphasis on long term plans. Under your system (manager in control) there would be constant squad changes-based on manager changes. This is not sustainable. Watford was relegated for this reason.

          2. Dan kit, why is Emery blamed when as head coach, he was not involved in transfers and given the players he requested?
            You seem to take every opportunity to slag off Emery. He was sacked due to the teams poor performances to sit 8th in the EPL, has successfully moved on and his recruitment was symptomatic of, not the cause of, the problems, at Arsenal FC.
            The question is why has a highly rated, young, 6’4″, fast, right footed CB, who had drawn the attention of many clubs in Europe, now become not good enough for Arsenal, without playing an EPL or Europa League match? The only reason Arsenal was successful in his recruitment, was that they were prepared to loa

          3. Dan kit, please refer me to the last time I slagged off Arsene Wenger. You must have me mixed up with someone else.

  7. Arteta obviously doesn’t trust an under-20 CB, as what his mentor Wenger did. It’s up to Saliba’s entourage now, whether they want to wait until Saliba gets more experience or ask Arsenal to sell the boy

    In my opinion, Arteta should’ve given Saliba some games instead of playing a departing CB like Mustafi, but maybe Arteta would like to give the chance to Chambers

  8. What I most take from Dans usual full of perspective article is the question of whether or NOT, we fans SHOULD be party to all the internal affairs within the club. Are we the best judges of what should happen in the WS case, even supposing we could ever all agree, which we never will?

    I say we are NOT and as fans we need to support the manager, who is the professional paid to run our team and who does(unlike us all) know the facts, whereas all we can do is speculate.

    To illustrate my point, imagine that instead of football, we were discussing whether we knew better than our doctor, lawyer, plumber , gardener or any other person whose job and profession it is , whereas we are not trained, and I suggest in all seriousness that would never happen and IF it ever did, it would be widely regarded as a total arrogance on our part.
    It seems to me , that in football, alone, an army of passionate but untrained -at pro level- fans can blithely assume they know better than the professional in charge. That cannot be just, nor right. This is my own view and I stand by it!

    1. Jon, I would be worried if you of all people would not no longer stand by your own view.

      I largely agree with your view on this one, with the caveat that when I go to my doctor, lawyer or plumber I don’t gobble up their advise blindly but judge for myself if it passes the smell test. If I go to my doctor for a knee pain and he tells me my leg needs to be amputated I might go for a second opinion. Or at least wish I could go for a second opinion.

      Having seen Saliba play last season. The smell test would have been seeing him play at least a few times for us this season.

      I trust Arteta enough to jump the conclusion that Saliba would be playing for us if he was deemed to the next VVD. So clearly Arteta is trying to manage a problem not of his own making. But this does not take away the fact that we have not really been given clarity and that something seems to have gone very wrong with the WS situation.

      1. I agree we have not been given clarity but my whole point is that it is vital to trust those in charge , UNTIL, LIKE WENGERS LAST FEW YEARS, HE PROVES INCOMPETENT.


        I wonder if you REALLY do though!

        1. Jon I think we really do share the same view. I just wanted to make the point that I will not blindly follow “the expert”. But I remember you didn’t blindly follow Wenger years before he left. Although there is no doubt in my mind that Wenger knew more about football than we ever will. I just didn’t believe his knowledge translated in results any longer.

          I have great faith in Arteta. Even more now than a few weeks ago. I was worried he had lost the team and I have seen more experienced managers fail to turn that around. To my relief I think Arteta did manage to keep the lads on side. This does not mean that I didn’t have a few preferences that he “ignored”. But in my heart I knew he probably knew much better than I. I didn’t see Willian being worth sticking with as long as he did. In fact I didn’t se the contract Willian got as a good investment. I also wanted to see more of ESR and Nelson. But I was happy to yield to Arteta’s preferences since I trust him. I still half expect Arteta to prove me wrong on Willian as well. Perhaps by the end of the season we can see why we invested in him.

          Philosophically I am always for transparency. I understand that businesses and poleticians feel they have manage our emotions and keep the truth from us but ceterus paribus I would like to think for myself and not have others manage the truth for me.

    2. Ok if we need to support the manager and manager know better than fans, then when manager play Xhaka we must support.

      When manager play Willian, we must support.

      When manager don’t play ESR, we must support.

      I need to support manager and agree with manager. Then last time I need to support and agree with UE and AW.

      If I need to do all that, then I better not come here to comment.

  9. Good article! Saliba is symbolic for the poor way in which we manage our club and it’s resources.

    When we bought Saliba we were in desperate need of immediate help at CB. Yet we agreed to forgo this immediate help by loaning the player back for one more season. We were willing to sacrificy our screaming short term need because we were hoping to get the next VVD or Laurent Blanc. We paid a big price for not having imporved our CB pairing with the likes Mustafi making a number of game altering personal errors which contributed to us missing out on CL football.

    Fast forward a year and half and our great big hope for the future get’s shipped out without a single game for first team under his belt/

    I would have preferred to see him fail desperately in the EFL or Europa league and understand why he is/was not ready.

    Instead we get the PC sound bites which seem hardly sincere or logical.

    Does Arteta have a problem in managing some young talented players? Gundouzie is talented but his attitude seemed to rub Arteta the wrong way.

    Is Arteta afraid of saying that in his opinion Saliba couldn’t defend a penny in his pocket? Afraid to reduce his sell-on value?

    One thing is for certain, no matter how you spin it, the money spent on Silba has been wasted. We are not a club who had the luxury of investing our limited resources in a player who would do nothing to bring us back to the top 4 for the 2 years following his purchase.

    1. @The Art of Teta
      I agree with your thoughts 100%!!!! Arteta and Edu are treating the club’s resources in a very nonchalant manner. We get it, it’s not their money, they couldn’t care less where it ends up. I wish Kroenke would crack down hard on them and remind them the club’s money does not grow on trees.

    2. The Art of Teta, if William Saliba comes back at end of this season and “makes the grade” at Arsenal at then 20years of age, how many seasons will he be a future benefit to the Club?

  10. Great Article and thank you 👏👏
    Mental health (broken heart) is no joke and his losses have been so dramatic for a 19year old. You have nailed it with the explanation as to why this all makes sense and Edu/Arteta say he has a huge future and William will know this too with all the clear outs come the summer.

    Arsenal have did the right thing in this one except not have him in the Europa & League cup squads tbh.

  11. What I cannot understand surely if the loan back to France was for his welfare it would have made more sense had he gone back to his old club Saint-Étienne they were very keen to take him back on loan playing time was never going to be a problem and would have slotted straight in and he couldn’t have got a better support network than at his old club where he knows the staff players very well .

  12. The point here is the club is relying on Arteta’s assessment of players. So far to this point it has been hit and miss; no manager gets it right all the time.

    For example, Arteta is right on Saka, Martinelli, and ESR (so far) in terms of deeming them ready.
    In contrast, he’s been dead wrong regarding Willian, Willock, Nketiah, and one could argue Xhaka.

    The difference with Saliba is he never got a chance really to play with the first team in Europa or PL games. Was that a wise choice or a foolish waste?

    Based on track record as a manager, it could go either way honestly. Perhaps Saliba is ready, we’ll never know this year as he’s off on loan.

    Personally I find it hard to believe that he is lesser than either Willock or Nketiah.

  13. I hope now that the youngsters have rescued him,Arteta, will show more confidence in the other young talents and give them opportunities too. Arteta has been too cautious in exposing young talents, which is not good for their development. Experience is gained from playing games consistently and when older players are injured or not performing, the youngsters must be given opportunities. I think that Saliba was good enough to play in both the Europa and premier league squads. He should at least be given chances to play for Arsenal in the Europa cup games. Let’s hope that his loan deal works out well for all parties.

  14. Great article, reiterating all of the questions we have been asking for months, with no response. And all posts here are valid too.
    If the issue is due to his bereavements coupled with homesickness, ALL MA had to say was “for compassionate reasons”. That’s not intrusive and we all would have understood and got off his case – surely better for WS than the continued speculation.
    But MA has said NOTHING! And then shipped him out to a club 5 hours drive from his hometown, who wanted him back.
    This one has been atrociously handled by Arsenal from start to finish.

  15. Dan to me, whether Arteta succeeds or not, there is something about him I do not like at all. His grudges against, Guendouzi, Ozil, and William Saliba (remember Wesley Fofana plays for Brendan Rogers), feel wrong to me. It’s not ‘what you do, it’s how you do it’. Humility is a precious commodity and, to me, Arteta does not have certain ethical attitudes towards all his players…..some are more equal than others when it comes to fairness and his ethics. His grudges against some, but not other’s, are just downright wrong. That’s how I feel. Saliba is being treated poorly.

    1. Sean this grudge that you speak of! What evidence old son? Opinions are fine but if you serously allege a grudge, which is a serious charge against your ownclubs manager, then you are charged with providing evidence not just an opinin, I’ d say! Seeme to me from your post, if anyone has a grudge it is you, AGAINST MA, not MA himself.

      1. You must be well aware that there have been dressing room problems with Arteta’s fairness. It’s been all over Youtube from reliable sources. You may as well accuse them as well. There are many good Arsenal sources beside this.

        1. Arsenal legend Martin Keown blasts ‘toxic’ dressing room and raises Mikel Arteta concern

          “You wonder how toxic the dressing room is when there’s a growing group of players who don’t take part and sit in the corner”.

          He added: “They paid £25m for William Saliba and he doesn’t have a squad number, Nicolas Pepe is wondering around like he’s not interested, Willian is on holiday.

  16. Dan
    Am amazed everyone is so numb and blind about this one it’s the biggest disappointment I have ever experienced at Arsenal since the selling of van Persie and the 8 – 2 hammering we received at old Trafford the only defender better than Saliba at the Emirates is Gabrielle,
    Ozil is history and was spoil from Wenger days, Guwendouzi will be great in two years time, Arteta was call a coach during playing days at Arsenal, am understand that’s its the treatments of Guenduzi was getting Saliba was opposed to that got him in this hole , Arteta is a fraid allowing this Saliba in the side because of the immediate impact he will have , have seen pictures and this guy is always in the company of Ozil and Guwrdouxi, am really hope am wrong but Arteta certainly hates this guy but Edu knows he has world class potential, memba Gun Smoke fid tell you

    1. Half time. Watched first half. WS fit well in the team. Don’t look like what some people say about him having emotional problems.

        1. Nice is playing quite bad. Like watching League One team. Maybe only a bit better than Arsenal U23. Don’t think WS will improve playing there.

          WS look ok. He did a few fancy turns under pressure. Look confident but dangerous if he lose the ball as last man.

          1. Thanks for that, Cph. I didn’t watch it, but saw some positive comments afterwards.
            As long as he gets some minutes though, hey?!

          2. Yes Sue it is good that he is getting some minutes. Better than being frozen out of Europa and cup games and feeling he is “locked up” at Arsenal.

      1. Do tell us what he would like like, while playing, if he had emotional probelms. I THOUGHT YOURS AN ODD COMMENT, I must say!

        1. The really odd comments are those that keep insisting WS has personal problems and he is not in the right mind to play when he himself said nothing.

          He showed tonight that he is in the right mind to play and he is ready to play against the kind of teams Arsenal faced in Europa. He was focus and did not make mistakes.

          1. Cph Your info is wrong . He has himself said he has worries and feels unsettled in a foreigh country. It is widely accepted throughout all in the game with knowledge that he has personal emotional probelms , so you are barking, (somewhat embarrasingly too, given what everyone else knows) up the wrong tree.

          2. jon fox your info is wrong. WS himself has not said what you claim he said.

            There are no quotes or social media posts from him that suggest “he has worries and feels unsettled in a foreigh country”. Show me a quote or post from him that say what you say.

            It is widely accepted throughout all in the game who chose to believe in unsubstantiated reports that he has personal emotional probelms.

            You are the one barking up the wrong tree by believing in speculation without a quote or post from WS. Embarrasing.

  17. Definitely we do need an explanation as this kid who was touted as a future mainstay of the defence was not given a look in to show what he could do in a competitive game. It is one of main gripes against Arteta. His man management has so far been woeful with certain players being put in the good guy category while others have been shut out. I would like to put it down to inexperience rather than obstinate stupidity.

  18. Team selection decisions are not entirely made by a single person in an elite club like Arsenal. Player assessments and evaluations like best partnerships, confluence when a player is on the pitch are some of the things taken into consideration. There is a coaching staff, a technical guru, stats team to aid the manager. I know Saliba is good, but the coaching staff are quite aware the environment is not fit for him now. Perhaps they are looking to ship out some of the many center backs we have in loan and permanent deals before Saliba comes in. Its also possible Arteta finds him raw and wants to educate him his way, so he doesn’t get the culture of older players plying their trade on the bench. For now Gabriel, Holding, Mari appear to be in front of the que. Saliba will be back, i see him partnering Mari in small cups. If you are a true Arsenal fan you will know we owe our beautiful brand of football to Wenger, lets call it Wenger ball for now. And if you have been observant you will notice Arteta is using a player, at least one, who played under Wenger in Attack, midfield and defence. He doesn’t want to lose Wenger ball. That explains xhaka on the team, holding, Lacazette, willock and even Auba to some extent.

  19. Interesting.
    Reading the headline “Should Arsenal come clean over the William Saliba debacle”, one’s thought could easily be, that Arsenal may be hiding something I suspect the headline is put on by the editorTadmin of this site.
    Whereas the writer’s question “Do we need clarity over Saliba” is a much deeper or more balanced way to put it, I think.
    The article has many good points and information, which I personally wasn’t aware of.
    But to a large degree, I think we can trust both Arteta and others involved in the decision, that they make these sort of decisions on the basis of more knowledge about football in general and the particular player, than we as fans have. Should we doubt their motive is to make decisions is to find a way, which is best for club and player? Why?
    Can we expect Arteta or any other to explain in detail about every player and team decision? No, then they would spend half their time trying to satisfy an insatiable desire for information and discussion.
    And if there are very private personal issues involved, I would certainly expect the club to respect a players need for privacy etc. like any respectable employer would.

  20. Something stinks to high hell at our Club, there have been a number of very questionable deals done over the past few years, Pepe being the strangest of all, and no answers given when questions were asked. Then all of a sudden a number of high profile departures happens and it clean the slate time, Something not quite right this Gooner believes 🤔

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