Since joining OGC Nice, William Saliba has been asked about his Arsenal career in an effort to squeeze out any inkling of controversy on more than one occasion. His latest comments have sparked fresh debate over his long-term future in north London. They require both context and sympathy.
Whichever angle the situation is viewed from doesn’t cover Arteta in glory. While factors not related to football impacted his integration and progression, William Saliba‘s career was poorly handled in regards to valuable playing time to assess his progress.
Being omitted from regular Premier League matchday squads while Shkodran Mustafi, for example, continued to play fleetingly despite a mutual desire for him to be moved on, was one thing. His absence from the Europa League squad while injured trio Pablo Mari, Calum Chambers and Gabriel Martinelli were still chosen irked supporters further. Mari played 180 minutes, Chambers 110 and Martinelli none.
There were no certainties that Arsenal would have wrapped up qualification so soon in the group stages, but there could still have been space for him.
William Saliba claims Mikel Arteta judged him too soon at Arsenal before making fair assessment
Then the FA Cup and Carabao Cup came around, where Alex Runarsson was granted the opportunity to prove his worth, mistakes that indicated how far out of his depth he was. Saliba wasn’t given the chance to make such errors, if indeed he would have at all.
Nobody had qualms over the need for Saliba to leave and play elsewhere given the lack of minutes in red and white, with Nice the chosen home for him until the end of the season. Quizzed once more about his time at Arsenal on RMC, he had this to say:
"“It is clear that so much has changed in the last year,” he said. “When I saw that the coach changed a lot changed for me too. In this year there has been a lot of change. He judged me on two-and-a-half matches. I would have liked for him to play me more. But he told me I wasn’t ready. “I was waiting for him to give me a chance, but football is like that. When I initially came to Arsenal the league looked very good so I showed up to training and wanted to train on my own to show the coach I was ready. “I am happy now, I want to play for Nice. The idea when you’re part of a team is a better feeling for me.”"
With supporters pointing to the snap judgement Arteta made on Saliba based off of less than three matches, this ‘swipe’ at the manager comes across with a healthy dose of bitterness. Does it, though? And even if it is, would it not be justified?