William Saliba admits he wasn’t quite at the right level physically during his pre-season friendly matches at Arsenal, which may have counted against him.
Speaking in his first press conference as a loanee at OGC Nice, William Saliba briefly talked about his spell with Arsenal so far.
After joining to much fanfare in 2019, Saliba had a disjointed but encouraging year on loan with Saint-Etienne. Unfortunately, that didn’t lead to any opportunities with Arsenal.
There wasn’t space for the defender in the Europa League squad, and Mikel Arteta clearly didn’t think he was ready to make the jump to the Premier League either. Saliba puts his slow start down to his lack of pre-season sharpness following a long break.
“My first six months were difficult, because I was coming from six months where I wasn’t able to train because I was at home (pandemic), and couldn’t train outside, couldn’t play,” Saliba said (via GFFN).
“I arrived there as they were finishing the league season, so I was training alone. As soon as they came back from holidays, we quickly had the first friendly matches where I lacked rhythm and was a bit insufficient physically.
“The coach immediately told me that I was not ready. I would have at least liked to have a chance to rediscover my rhythm. But this is football, it’s like that.”
Arsenal fans saw Saliba playing well enough against MK Dons in a 4-1 friendly win, but we didn’t get to watch his performances in the 4-3 victory over QPR, nor the 3-2 defeat to Aston Villa. It’s possible these games made the difference in Arteta’s assessment.
I think we’re all in agreement that Saliba should have been included in the Europa League squad, in the end. Various injury setbacks meant Arsenal could have used another centre-back, and it would’ve been great experience for the teenager.
But Arteta himself has admitted it was a mistake in hindsight, no one is on the other side of this issue. All we can do is move on and hope they avoid the same sort of error next season.