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.
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