After three years and a £27 million transfer to Arsenal, William Saliba will finally make his Premier League debut on Friday night.
Since being signed by Unai Emery in 2019 and loaned out to St-Etienne, Nice, and Marseille, the 21-year-old Frenchman has not yet participated in a competitive match for the Gunners.
When Saliba, who was not present, was selected the Young Player of the Year in Ligue 1 and called up to the senior French national team, Arteta got it in the neck.
“What we have seen of William in the previous several weeks gives us every reason to believe that we made the right decision to loan him out again last season,” he says.
I can see why I was criticized, but it wasn’t just me who believed he needed the exposure we were unable to provide him the previous year.
Players younger than 19 rarely compete at the highest levels for prestigious clubs. That simply doesn’t take place.
“And if he had stayed with us, he would have played very little since we didn’t play European football last season.
“This club invested a lot of money in William a few years ago because we thought he could have a great impact on our team.
“Giving him a road to grow and develop was the greatest way to do that, and right now he appears to be ready to go.
“I’m incredibly pleased with how well he’s adjusted after a year away in a totally different league.
“Who knows what may have transpired if he had remained with us throughout the previous season.
“Perhaps he would have sustained an injury, perhaps he wouldn’t have played, and perhaps if we had tried to loan him out, it wouldn’t have worked out.
“Football is that. It’s really difficult.
However, we thought it was appropriate to let him spend a year in Marseille, and the most crucial thing is that we are again back together and our relationship is still going strong.