You have to feel a little sorry for William Saliba.
Snapped up by a big club at a tender age, his confidence must have been blossoming.
But from the moment the ink dried on his bumper contract, the odds haven’t been kind to the Frenchman.
Aged just 18, he would have had an inkling that he wouldn’t slot straight into the Arsenal reckoning. The rawness was still very apparent and a loan deal suited all parties.
So off he went to St Etienne for a decent spell with Les Verts, making a fair amount of appearances in Ligue Un.
Coming back to Arsenal, Saliba might have thought perhaps he would have a chance to make the squad cut.
Back to France he went, this time with Nice, managed by Patrick Vieira. A deal that would again suit both parties, even if the ambitious Saliba might not think so at the time.
This spell yielded even better results. Glowing testimony from his coach and his opponents, as well as French pundits, meant that Saliba was hot property again.
And in the summer just gone, Saliba came back to London rightfully thinking he had done enough to show he’s ready to be part of the fold at Arsenal.
Perhaps Arteta saw that he wasn’t quite ready. Maybe Saliba even wanted one final loan back in France, as we already know he had suffered with homesickness since his move back in 2019.
The mixture of the big price tag and the compliments he had received must have been a big pressure on the young defender. But fast forward to the present day and it seems the shoulders on this player are pretty broad.
An ever present in Marseille’s side, Saliba has gone on to show everyone why Arsenal shelled out so much for his services – and perhaps why the consecutive loan moves were the right thing at the right time.
Breaking records in Ligue Un (Saliba has won the ball more times in the opposition half than anyone else this season, as well as last season the most amount of successful tackles), Saliba has even made his bow with Les Bleus. A full international – and yet he hasn’t even made a single appearance with his parent side.
This summer is going to be a big one for Saliba.
He will be returning to Arsenal and be well within his rights to ask to be a regular starter.
But Arteta has forged quite the partnership already in the centre of defence, with Ben White and Gabriel giving us a solidity we have rarely seen. And that takes time to build.
Will Saliba come straight in? Maybe Arteta will switch to a central three and wing-backs to incorporate this talented young man?
Saliba has done enough to play regularly, rotated or otherwise. But will he be happy unless he is guaranteed a start? His Young Player of the Year award tells us he’s ready.
Arteta has a positive problem on his hands.
What would you do?
Answers below please!