Arsenal’s forgotten loan ace can help plug Mikel Arteta’s leaky defense next year and free up vital funds for the Gunners boss to pursue a much-needed new striker.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has steadied the ship at the Emirates in recent weeks after enduring a nightmare start to the season.
The Spaniard had the misfortune of overseeing the Gunners’ worst ever start to a season after they opened their new Premier League campaign with three straight defeats.
That, understandably, left the mood in north London at an all-time low as Arsenal headed into the first international break of the season.
But Arsenal has sparked back into life, with three wins and a draw helping them reignite their season.
There’s now a renewed, if not cautious, wave of optimism around the club as they head into this month’s fortnight break.
Their recent form has boosted Arteta, who had looked beleaguered following their abysmal form.
But the boosts haven’t stopped there for the Spaniard, with forgotten man William Saliba earning rave reviews for his displays with Marseille.
The French defender is yet to kick a ball for the Gunners in the Premier League, despite commanding a £27million fee in the summer of 2019.
In fact, Gunners fans were left seething when Saliba was turfed out on loan for the third time whilst Arteta sanctioned a £50m deal for ex-Brighton ace Ben White.
But it now seems as though the Spaniard has pulled off a masterstroke.
White has played a big part in Arsenal’s resurgence on the pitch, whilst Saliba has been compared to Virgil van Dijk by his fitness coach in France.
He’s impressed Marseille boss Jorge Sampaoli too. He told RMC Sport: “He’s a top player at his position, We were lucky to get him on loan, it wasn’t simple.
“He’s great at marking, but good bringing the ball out too. He’s a future great of French football, he’s very good at starting plays.”
Those rave reviews have impressed the Emirates hierarchy, with journalist Fabrizio Romano confirming that Arsenal “trust him 100% for the future” – hinting that Arteta has earmarked the 20-year-old for a major role next year.
Despite a flurry of goals against rivals Tottenham in their derby day win, hitting the back of the net remains the key issue for Arteta’s side.
But it’s also easy to overlook that no side above Arsenal in the top half of the table have conceded more than the 10 goals that the 12th-placed Gunners have already shipped this term.
Arteta invested heavily in his rearguard this summer with deals for White and new goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
The deal for Ramsdale was criticized too, but it’s beginning to look like another call that Arteta has got right.
Saliba finally finding his feet and starting to live up to his potential would allow Arteta to refrain from dipping back into the transfer market to boost his fragile backline – and allow him to crack on with adding more firepower to his shot-shy strikeforce.
The Gunners have been linked with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ollie Watkins and Dusan Vlahovic in recent days.
Whether Arteta decides to raid a domestic rival in the form of Everton or Aston Villa or instead elects to lure Fiorentina’s star man to north London, a move won’t come cheap – which is why promoting Saliba could be a huge boost in next summer’s transfer window.
After splashing out more (£146m) than any of their Premier League rivals this summer, the Spaniard knows he’ll have to be wise when continuing his rebuild.
Many of those transfer decisions were scrutinized this summer. It now seems as though the majority of Arteta’s decisions have been pretty much spot on. But it’s now looking as though the decision to send Saliba to France could prove to be the shrewdest of them all.