What’s Going On With William Saliba? By Dan Smith
A few years ago Manchester United signed a youngster called Bebe. The myth goes that Sir Alex Ferguson has never seen the kid play, but was going off the recommendation of fellow Portuguese Carlos Quiroz. Yet since leaving Old Trafford, the former assistant manager has denied this.
Some sources suggest the club were too embarrassed to admit they made the purchase purely on the say-so of agent Jorge Mendes. Mr Ferguson would later admit this is the only transfer he ever did without seeing the player or sending any scouts over to Portugal to observe the teenager in the flesh. In training, senior players were quickly confused the moment they saw the limited technical ability of this new acquisition.
I thought of that story when considering the curious situation regarding William Saliba. Of course, the difference is we know the 19-year-old has spent the last couple of years at the highest level of French Football.
We have monitored him so closely we were willing to give Saint Etienne over 23 million a year ago and then loan him back. Yet Arteta has had one look at the teenager and decided he’s not good enough to even play in the group stages of the Europa League.
When the Spaniard submitted his squad to UEFA, he already knew his opponents for Europe. If he doesn’t trust the defender to do a job against Dundalk, then something is not quite right.
Because of the goodwill he received by winning the FA Cup many haven’t questioned our managers decision-making. On the contrary, some gooners have so much faith in our coach they were predicting a title challenge and lifting the Champions League inside three years.
Yet Arteta is making bold choices that he doesn’t need to make, almost like he’s over complicating things.
In the case of Saliba, he’s been training at Colney since the last campaign even ended. So Arteta has had approx 4 months to monitor the kid. The only kind of clarity we have got is it’s felt that the defender’s development has been slowed down by Covid 19 cancelling Ligue 1 as well as his personal situation.
Why then was a loan move back to France not arranged even before the transfer window opened? Instead we waited for the final week of the deadline to decide to find a Championship club who might want him, but we left it too late.
So the lads confidence must be shot? Every Thursday he has to watch his peers play limited opposition and wonder how he’s gone from getting ready to face PSG in a Cup Final, to not being trusted to face the Champions of Ireland!
Meanwhile his partner in France, Wesley Fofana is playing for Leicester. He’s also 19 and also last played in March because of the pandemic.
The PR spin is Arsenal will now integrate Saliba into the squad, but if he wasn’t deemed good enough to play in UEFA’s secondary competition can you see him starting in the Premiership?
Of course we brought Saliba while Arteta was still at Man City. There is every chance Arteta simply doesn’t rate what his employers have bought. He’s very specific in terms of what he wants his defenders to do and has shown he’s ruthless enough to not play anyone he deems won’t pick up his ethos. At the same time, what happened to coaching, training, teaching.
Isn’t that part of his job, to get the best out of the resources he has?
It’s becoming too accepted (not just at Arsenal) for talent to be paid to sit at home because a manager has given up on them.
At the Etihad, teaching tactics was Arteta’s strength.
This Thursday we will be forced to most likely start Gabriel and Mustafi, players ideally we should be resting for Sunday. In the meantime, Saliba and Sokratis are being paid to sit at home.
Don’t tell me they couldn’t play and do a job?