William Saliba feels ready to play for Arsenal whenever he gets the opportunity to do so, according to a report in France as Mikel Arteta admits regrets.
GFFN report that one of William Saliba’s former teammates told them the Arsenal defender feels ‘very ready’ to play for the team whenever he gets the call.
As we know, Saliba is finding first-team minutes at Arsenal hard to come by. He’s not in the Europa League squad due to the lack of non-homegrown spaces available, and he’s only made two matchday squads all season – one in the Community Shield and one in the League Cup.
The 19-year-old did get a couple of games for the u23s in the Premier League 2, but that’s all so far.
The decision from Mikel Arteta is difficult for many Arsenal fans to understand, particularly given fellow 19-year-old Wesley Fofana starting for Leicester City, as he did against the Gunners over the weekend.
Both came from Ligue 1 side Saint-Etienne as teenagers, and if anything, Saliba joined with higher expectations regarding his potential. One of them is starting regularly, however, and the other can’t even make the bench.
With all the defensive injuries for Arsenal, this should be the perfect time to give Saliba some minutes. However, he can’t play against Dundalk in the Europa League, and it would be surprising to see him make his debut at Old Trafford in the Premier League.
Arsenal have created a situation where they need the centre-back to play, but they have no way of easing him into the action. He essentially missed out on the Europa League squad on seniority, which was a mistake in hindsight.
It’s hard to see the pathway for Saliba to work his way in, but Arteta needs to make it happen. Arsenal don’t have the luxury of reliable centre-backs in terms of ability or fitness. They may as well give opportunities to someone they hope can star for them in the future.
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, who have both been offered the chance to play for the u23s.
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 competitions.
He may need to continue to be patient for a while longer.