Mikel Arteta outlines aims after signing new Arsenal contract
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Mikel Arteta has made some good signings in his time as Arsenal boss, and his recent resurgance with the Gunners has earned himself a new contract. But his handling on one star has confused former Arsenal great Paul Merson, as he feels as though something isn’t right with William Saliba.
Paul Merson is baffled by Mikel Arteta’s stance over on-loan defender Saliba, and has admitted that Arsenal ‘might as well sell’ the star.
Despite being signed by Arsenal for £27million in 2019, he is still yet to even register a league appearance for the Gunners, even though he’s since been called up to the French national team. Saliba has starred at Marseille this season, and has helped the French side reach the final of the UEFA Conference League.
However, it’s still yet to be confirmed whether Saliba is in Arteta’s plans for next season, and Merson thinks that Arsenal ‘might as well sell the Frenchman if they’re not going to use him. Writing in his Daily Star column, Merson said: “William Saliba is running out of time to prove himself at Arsenal and I think he could be sold this summer.
“There must be a reason he’s been loaned out three times by the club. Was he getting ripped in training? I don’t see why he’s still on loan otherwise. Arsenal paid a lot of money for him but I think if anyone offers them their money back they would take it right now.
“It’s almost three years he’s been there now and he can’t get a look in. Maybe Mikel Arteta has watched him train and decided he’s nowhere near ready.”
But Saliba must have done enough, as he has played 49 times for Marseille this season and even earned his first call up to the France squad in March. Arsenal could get a sizeable fee for Saliba, and Merson feels as though if Arteta doesn’t consider him to be an option just yet, the Spaniard should sell him and use the money to sign someone else.
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Merson added: “If that’s the case, Arsenal are going to need another centre back this summer because you can’t rely on Ben White, Gabriel Magalhaes and Rob Holding. Especially if they are in the Champions League because you have to have a big squad full of quality, proven players to survive playing that many games a season.
“You need four top-quality centre-backs for a start – and they should sign one who’s Premier League ready. How long can they keep waiting for Saliba? You hear that he’s doing well in France, but that league is nowhere near as competitive as the Premier League.
“If Arsenal don’t have confidence in him to perform over here, there’s no point bringing him back from Marseille just to loan him out again. They might as well sell.”
And Saliba has since put the pressure on Arsenal to make a decision, and even hinted that he’s be happy to stay in Marseille. Saliba said: “My wish is to finish the season well, to leave on a good note in case I don’t come back.
“It would be my pleasure to come back no matter what. It’s not as if I know I’m not going to come back, it’s Marseille, it’s my club.”
The last time that Arteta spoke about Saliba was back in March, as he said: “We are really aware of what he’s doing, how he’s developing. He’s our player and we are really happy with the decision that we made because the exposure, minutes, responsibility and growth at his age is something we could not guarantee him this season.
“It makes a lot of sense what is happening with him and we are glad to see him the way he is improving.” But it’s still yet to be decided if he has improved enough, even though he is having a better season than Arsenal are.
Marseille will be in the Champions League next season due to their impressive finish in Ligue 1, and Arsenal are still yet to confirm their place. Arsenal are favourites to finish in the top four of the Premier League, and with a bigger squad needed for Europe, it could open the door for Saliba to feature.
Saliba could still become an Arsenal great, but his treatment so far may implicate things. Players must buy into Arteta’s ‘process’, but so far the Frenchman hasn’t has the chance.
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