Arsenal legend Ian Wright has nothing but praise for both Mikel Arteta and Edu for how they handled William Saliba’s situation and are now reaping the benefits of their process.
This time last season, the knives and pitchforks were out for Mikel Arteta and Edu. Having just sent Saliba out on his third consecutive loan, many questioned the pair’s motives for allowing such a talented player to be seemingly cast aside.
Given that Rob Holding was getting minutes, many of the Arsenal faithful turned on Arteta because of how he mishandled (many thought that at the time) Saliba’s situation. Such was the angst around the French defender; many thought they would never get to see him in an Arsenal shirt.
Ian Wright heaps praise on Mikel Arteta and Edu over William Saliba
The 21-year-old went from strength to strength for Marseille in Ligue 1 as he won the Young Player of the Year award, was capped for the France international team, and helped Marseille back into the Champions League.
The defender returned to much fanfare this summer as many were excited to see him finally don the Arsenal kit. During pre-season, he was flawless. The Frenchman was commanding, composed on the ball, positionally astute, and did everything a world-class centre-back should do.
There were still some detractors, however, and many believed the opening night clash away at Crystal Palace would be a more suitable measuring stick for Saliba’s talent.
The answer? A Man of the Match performance as he dominated at the heart of Arsenal’s defence.
Such was his command during the game; it left many wondering if the 21-year-old is already the Gunners’ best defender.
Club legend Ian Wright was left in awe of the Frenchman’s debut that saw him stand head and shoulders above the rest.
"“Mikel and Edu have got to take a lot of credit for what they’ve done with this guy,” Wright said via Football 365.“This guy is someone we’ve always thought would be special. Even when they sent him out on loan there were fans calling for him to come back. He’s a full international now, he looks composed, calm, he’s got great pace.“It’s a decision that was magnificent from Arsenal. It would have been easy to bring him back last year but they gave him the extra season and now he looks like he’s been playing in that position for years.“At 21, to go to Crystal Palace for the first game of the season and play like that… you don’t want to get carried away but that’s some performance.”"
Wright isn’t getting carried away, but the Arsenal fanbase is, and rightly so. Saliba is the defender we all thought he would be and then some.
Arteta and Edu’s decision to send him out of loan last year looks like a masterstroke, and now we have a full season of the 21-year-old to look forward to.