William Saliba appears to be progressing in Mikel Arteta’s estimations but he’s likely to miss out on Sunday’s squad after featuring for the u23s.

William Saliba with the Arsenal u23s (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)
William Saliba with the Arsenal u23s (Photo via Arsenal Academy on Twitter)

The Arsenal u23s faced Liverpool at Meadow Park on Friday, with William Saliba making another start for the side.

The centre-back played 77 minutes and created one of the chances of the match for Ben Cottrell late on, but Steve Bould’s side continued their winless run with a 1-0 defeat.

The results don’t matter much in Saliba’s case, as this is just about getting him sharp and match fit, but it certainly looks like he’ll now miss out on the trip to Old Trafford this weekend.

It’s extremely rare to see an u23 starter with the senior side in the same weekend.

Arsenal really hamstrung themselves with the decision not to put Saliba in the Europa League squad, a call Mikel Arteta strongly hinted he’s regretting now. At the time, Arteta thought Pablo Mari would already be back from injury by now, so it made more sense.

Now, it’s hard to see which game Arteta could use to ease the defender in. Whilst the team face Molde, Rapid Vienna, and Dundalk in the Europa League, they have high-flying Aston Villa and Leeds, followed by Wolves and Spurs in the Premier League.

Arteta is clearly happy with the way Saliba is getting on, saying: “He is in a much better place, he’s feeling more confident around the place. 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.”

But Arteta’s only chance to reward that progression is by throwing Saliba into the mix against one of the Premier League’s form teams. It’s a frustrating situation for everyone involved.