William Saliba has revealed that Mikel Arteta only spoke to him once in his first week back at Arsenal, in an apparent challenge to the defender.

William Saliba in the new Arsenal away kit for 2023/24 (Photo via Arsenal.com)
William Saliba in the new Arsenal away kit for 2023/24 (Photo via Arsenal.com)

Arsenal defender William Saliba recently signed a new long-term contract with the club, after establishing himself as a starter for the Gunners in 2022/23.

Yet the situation was so different just a year ago, with the centre-back still waiting on his Arsenal debut after three years and three loans away from his parent club.

Returning to north London after a positive year in Marseille, Saliba admits that he didn’t initially speak much to Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.

“He said hello to me the first day,” Saliba recalled. “And then after he didn’t speak with me.

“I told myself to be good on the pitch, to give him a solution, to tell him: ‘Yeah I’m ready’,’ Saliba says.

“To tell him on the pitch is the better way… I knew one day he’ll come to speak to me.”

William Saliba returns to training (via Arsenal.com)
William Saliba returns to training (via Arsenal.com)

The Mail report that Arteta was keen to see how Saliba would act and react, leaving him a little in the dark for a week to gauge his character.

But Saliba answered those questions within a couple of training sessions, and things have been on the up ever since.

The 22-year-old answered questions about his early treatment at Arsenal after signing his contract, insisting that he now sees the logic behind his pathway.

“I know now [going on loan] was the best plan for me, and last summer when I came back to the club and became a pivotal part of the team, words cannot describe how I feel here,” Saliba said then.

“Having the confidence of the boss and the staff, and then having your love and support, made me feel 10 feet tall.”

william saliba new arsenal kit
William Saliba in Arsenal’s new kit for the 23/24 season via Arsenal.com

Saliba also spoke about Virgil van Dijk in his interview with the Mail this week, after plenty of comparisons between the two players over the last year or so.

“I still watch him!” Saliba said. “I really like his quality in one-against-one, his calmness, his composure, and his long balls as well. He has everything and, for me, he was a good defender to learn from.

“I think he was – for two or three years – the best defender in the world.”

The Arsenal man is now hoping he can eventually take van Dijk’s former spot on top.

“You have to work hard to go to this level. So I’m not close to this level but I will give everything to maybe one day become the best defender in the world.”