What is going on with Arsenal and William Saliba?

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?

Dan Smith

Tags Saliba


  1. Don’t know what’s happening, what I’ve seen from Saliba in the French league are highly encouraging, yes he has a few rough edges but who doesn’t at his age.

  2. Maybe that Leicester boy fofuna is right, maybe arteta doesn’t rate Saliba because he wasn’t the one that signed him. To be honest arteta decisions this days is starting to worry me, I love the man but I don’t understand most of his decision, he seem not to trust some set of players.

      1. Martinelli got injured in training, when teams were able to get back before the league resumed.

        there is your explanation

        1. Before his injury, Arteta favoured Nketia ahead of Martinelli. Even before lockdown, he hardly got chances while Nketia was even playing more than Laca.

  3. Arteta is a coward, because he want the tried and tested players. Seliba, Gouendouzi, Martinelli, Ceballos, and Tierney were bought by Emery. Only Tierney is rated higher than other players. But all of these players are very good. Emery bought ‘no name’ players of high quality, but Arteta want old horses like Willian. Arsenal won’t get better under the leadership of Arteta

    1. Martinelli is injured
      Ceballos and Tierney are 1st team players
      Guendouzi was sh1t
      Saliba is a 19 year old .

        1. You have to remember that Martinelli Is also 19 ,some managers prefer experience over age but I don’t know about Arteta and what he sees in the players .
          Martinelli is reportedly back in training so hopefully he gets back to the level he was on before the injury because for me personally I haven’t seen a youngster this good probably since Diaby 14 years ago ,I really don’t rate this kid

  4. Arteta didn’t sign Saliba that’s what is a matter. I’m beginning to see Arteta as a ‘control freak’. Guendouzi….gone, Torreira….. gone, Ozil…..gone, Saliba….gone. All better than half our squad. Guendouzi was ostracised for his Brighton affair. Ceballos and Nketiah had a punch up on TV and it was glossed over. One rule for who you like and one rule for who you don’t like. Not putting Ozil in the squad was annoying, Not putting Saliba in the squad is dark. The karma….Mustafi cost us the goal against Leicester. Gabriel called him to mark and Mustafi took no notice. What goes around comes around.

  5. That first trophies he won are making him feel like the best coach already. I don’t know why on Earth a Mustafi will be ahead of a highly rated boy not just by french league but football world. Arsenal’s management is something else and I’m sure even if Martineli is fit Arteta will be starting Lacca and Inketia ahead of him just the same way he treated Torrera. That Arteta is becoming something else seriously

  6. You are right. He has to trust his entire squad. Am I the only one who saw Auba taking some pills on the touchline VS Leicester. Clearly the captain was not 100% ok on the day.

  7. I have backed Arteta throughout, but, in the case of Saliba I am totally confused by his handling of the player. Firstly, Saliba was ranked higher than his defensive partner at former club St. Ettienne,Fofana, who,has so far started and played several matches for Leicester city in the premier league, including their last game, when they defeated Arsenal. Secondly, Mustafi, Chambers, Luis, Holding and Mari are all injured, yet,there is no indication that Saliba will make his debut, even in their absence. Thirdly, Mustafi ,who played in the last game was not fully fit and as usual prone to errors and lapses of concentration, cost Arsenal the match. Moreover, Mustafi has refused a contract extension. So, why is Arteta giving him,playing time over Saliba? Saliba was recently named as one of the five best young defenders across Europe and among the top fifty young talents. Certainly, there is great potential and although there is room for improvements in all young talents, playing time is a critical ingredient in their further development. Experience is gained from playing games. I am convinced that Saliba cannot be as bad or poor as the defenders that Arteta inherited, when he took the job at Arsenal in December. It is time to give Saliba his chance, without him, Arsenal have already lost three out of six matches . Arteta must show some trust and confidence in the young talents like Neilson, Saliba and Willock.

  8. Hopefully Arteta has spent 4 months coaching up Saliba; that is a big part of Arteta’s job isn’t it? He was also brought in to help with development of all young players, not just those promoted from the academy.
    Gabriel has been a stud so far, with addition of Partey surely Saliba can get some chances. We could also park Elneny in front of our CB’s to shield them while playing Saliba.
    However if he persists with FB’s up top for width and Ceballos and Xhaka dropping back to cover, we will struggle to create and get exposed defensively like Vardy did.
    We were found out tactically by City and Leicester, hope Arteta changes the tactics of dropping Xhaka back as cover.

  9. Since none of us including Dan Smith is ever at the training ground and none of us, again including DAN, knows what personal problems the young SALIBA may still have, it is arrogance of a unfair kind to write an article saying, essentially,that DAN knows better than ARTETA.

    What we do know is that SALIBA is only 19 and recently lost his Mum and is in a new country without yet speaking much English. In essence, he is an immaigrant, though presumably with a home and bed to sleep in and enough food to enable him to be fit.

    I know that if i were a 19 year old immigrant , even one as gifted and young as SALIBA, I would be hurt by this sort of unfair article from a man who cannot possibly know what our two trophies in ten months manager knows! Who agrees?

    1. Also Jon your correct i.don’t know about managing but I still have an opinion.
      Im sure majority are not politicians but have an opinion about a prime minister or president
      I never produced a movie , does that mean I can say if I thought a film was bad
      You yourself have been critical of players but I guess never been a professional footballer ?
      We’re we not allowed to critque England when they lost to Iceland because none of us played at that level.
      So no , I don’t know as much as Arteta
      That’s why I don’t get paid thousands of pound a week to manage Arsenal.
      Measurement of success is victories
      He’s lost 3 out of 6
      My opinion is a lack of creativity is an issue

      1. Dan
        Everybody has a right and should say what the believe, their opinions, whatever they are. That is the whole point of this Just Arsenal site. When suddenly people slag each other off….almost all the time, what world is that OK in. We should spend our time talking about Arsenal.

        1. Dan
          You say what you believe clearly and I for one respect that. You don’t rely on character assasination and I respect that.

          1. Thanks Sean
            We are all gooners
            Nothing is worth name calling
            It’s only football end of the day
            Don’t get why people get so angry

      2. Just because an opinion is yours does not mean that it won’t have consequences on others.

        I felt angry and upset after the Leicester game, the same way every other arsenal fan did and the same way the players did. But, as fans, how does jumping on the manager and player’s backs help us move forward as a club?

        Expressing your opinion is your right, but just because you have the right to do something does not mean it is the most appropriate thing to do in certain circumstances. Pretty sure players reading all the negative media about them after a bad result is not gonna help them play better next time. If anything, it will dent their confidence and hamper their ability to perform to their best.

        Just some perspective.

  10. I think we need an article on what is going in with Arteta and etc etc…this is becoming increasingly worrying looks like MA has problem with not just one but 3-4 players now but hey MA can neve be wrong. Sell the players and move on.

    1. What Arteta is doing currently is not worth.
      He doesn’t understand where comes from, where he is, and where he is taking the club.
      He doesn’t want to use the resources at hand. He want his own signing.

  11. He played in the EFL and he did quite well so what’s this Arteta sees him in training all about? He sees Willock and Nelson too right?

  12. I think the keyword here is improvement.Has Arteta improved how the team plays ? Yes ! I think Arteta much like his mentor Guardiola will not take kindly to anyone who is likely to take away the change room from him,opinionated,crappy attitude and sulky,Ozil,Saliba and Guendouzzi. I will not mention Papa because he was just bought to pluck holes at the back when we had 0 strategy under Emery.

  13. Hey manchester united spanked liepzig, who i believe are better than we are for now with 5 goals to zero to set the mood ahead of our clash with them on sunday.

    We need to respond, our opposition tonight are champions of ireland. But never near the quality in liepzig, we need to score atleast 2 to 3 goal and maintain a clean sheet!

    Gebby, leno and even saka need to be rested.

    When will the new keeper be manning the stick? Even nelson, squad rotation is vital. Laca must start to regain sharpness

  14. l totally agree with Dan, l thought the duties of a coach is to develop the players and moulding them to become great like what wenger and fegie did than to always look for a finished product

  15. Arteta is hating on Saliba coz he wasn’t his choice. I guess we shall see who will outlast the other. Am really not impressed with how Arteta has handled this. He’s making Saliba flop by force

  16. I am struggling to understand how a writer can ignore the most important facts and still write such a huge text. He is 19 years old, coming from another country without being able to speak English AND his mother died a few months back.. Besides the obvious fact that this hindered his development, it most likely affected him a lot mentally as well and the coach prefers to ease him into the team rather than throwing him in the deep, especially as he is fragile atm…

      1. seriously, can you tell me where you saw him saying those things about the player’s mom and his loss, that might have impacted the player? all i see is him implying several times that the coach may not consider him good enough and asking why he wasnt sent on loan etc.

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