Ahead of the Arsenal match against Dundalk Mikel Arteta explained to the media why they left William Saliba out of the Europa League squad, and why he regrets it.
When Arsenal picked their Europa League squad, they had 20 non-homegrown players for 17 spots on the main list.
William Saliba couldn’t go on the u21 B-list, despite his age, because he hasn’t been at the club for two years. As a result, he was one of those at risk of missing out. He ended up not making the squad along with Mesut Özil and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
Mikel Arteta says they made the decision because they had so many centre-backs. Hence why Sokratis missed out too. However, after all the recent injuries and a setback to Pablo Mari, he regrets leaving the French youngster out.
“I feel really bad about William Saliba because we decided that because we have so many (centre-backs) we decided to leave him out of the squad,” Arteta said.
“It was really hurtful for me to do. I was hoping that Pablo Mari would be back in two weeks, but he had a setback. Then we don’t have Pablo and we don’t have William who is fit and available to play.”
Initially, Arsenal expected Mari back before the group stage even started. Now, it looks like he won’t join the squad until at least halfway through. In the meantime, Arsenal are also missing Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, and David Luiz.
As for Saliba’s development over the last few weeks, Arteta is happy with how things are going.
“He is in a much better place, he’s feeling more confident around the place,” Arteta continued. “His language is improving, he’s starting to understand much better what we’re doing to do physically.
“He’s played a few games with the under-23s as well, which he needed because he hadn’t played any football in the last seven or eight months. I think things are progressively getting better and better.”
It’s just a bit of a mystery when Saliba will get to settle in on the pitch. It won’t be in the Europa League, and there aren’t many easy games coming up in domestic competition. He may need to continue to be patient for a while longer.