William Saliba is having a whale of a time over at OGC Nice. Even if he wasn’t performing especially well or surrounded by mediocrity, him playing regularly constitutes the most important element right now, which he was getting none of at Arsenal.
There has been plenty of tears shed and blood boiled over the treatment of William Saliba during his time at Arsenal. Nobody knows the exact details, and there are reasons well known as to why he hasn’t been able to settle as quickly as hoped, but the lack of playing time, even in the Europa League, is irksome.
Why he hasn’t been offered more chances, or indeed any at all, is more surprising considering his most recent comments.
Signed under the management of Unai Emery, Saliba was immediately loaned back to former club Saint-Etienne in the summer of 2019 where he was to play the entire season ahead of his hotly-anticipated Arsenal arrival. However, the defender revealed that in the following January, Mikel Arteta tried to cut his loan six months short.
William Saliba reveals surprise Arsenal wish under Mikel Arteta
"“[Arsenal] wanted me to come back in January , I didn’t, I stayed in St Étienne,” he told L’Equipe.“After that, the fans were really looking forward to my arrival, I certainly didn’t imagine that it would happen like this.“Aside from that, it is football, I have learned that nothing is certain, you can be there, in your game, and then things can go south. I took a lot of experience from it, at least I will be ready for the future.”"
Nothing transpired and the series of events that unfolded can’t be rearranged. A lot evidently happened between January 2020 and now, although what hasn’t changed is Saliba’s undoubted talent.
Superb since moving back to France, the 19-year-old capped off his first six games in Ligue 1 with the club’s Player of the Month award despite the poor form shown overall by Nice. Starting out with a back three, Les Aiglons have since shifted to a back four where Saliba has played at left centre-back and cut a more comfortable figure alongside Jean-Clair Todibo.
From an individual point of view he’s done as well as he can. His previously noted calmness on the ball, almost like a well-channeled arrogance, remains in tact – so too his competent ball carrying ability.
Naturally discussions have already began over whether he has a long-term future at Arsenal, all of which has been confirmed by the club on numerous occasions. And, given his form, there is little doubt he’ll be pushing for a start next season. A solid start to life at Nice got even better with a second clean sheet against Angers on Sunday and while Nice may not have featured highly on most fans’ list of destinations, they’re serving him well thus far.