Arsenal tried to recall William Saliba from Saint-Etienne in January 2020, according to the player himself.

Nice's French defender William Saliba (L) is challenged by Metz's French forward Thierry Ambrose during the French L1 football match between Football Club de Metz and OGC Nice at the Saint-Symphorien Stadium in Longeville-Les-Metz, eastern France on January 9, 2021. (Photo by JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Nice’s French defender William Saliba (L) is challenged by Metz’s French forward Thierry Ambrose during the French L1 football match between Football Club de Metz and OGC Nice at the Saint-Symphorien Stadium in Longeville-Les-Metz, eastern France on January 9, 2021. (Photo by JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP via Getty Images)

William Saliba is currently out on loan with OGC Nice, after failing to play a single minute for the Arsenal senior side in the first half of the season. It may be surprising, therefore, to learn that the club tried to recall him from his previous loan in 2020.

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“They (Arsenal) wanted me to come back in January (2020), I didn’t, I stayed in St Étienne,” Saliba said. “After that, the fans were really looking forward to my arrival, I certainly didn’t imagine that it would happen like this.

“Aside from that, it is football, I have learned that nothing is certain, you can be there, in your game, and then things can go south. I took a lot of experience from it, at least I will be ready for the future.”

Perhaps Arsenal’s attempt to recall Saliba in January 2020 was less about playing him and more about his fitness.

At the time, the defender had just spent the two-and-a-half months on the sidelines with a metatarsal fracture, having already had a hamstring injury that season. Arsenal may have wanted to bring him back so they could manage him more closely.

Still, it’s strange that they would have recalled him with no intention to play him. They must have believed he’d get at least occasional minutes last season, which makes it even stranger that he didn’t get any at all for Arsenal this campaign.

Fortunately, things are working out for Saliba right now. He’s playing regularly for OGC Nice and just won their Player of the Month award for January. Keep that up for the rest of the campaign and it should lead to chances at Arsenal next season.