Arsenal secured the signing of highly-rated centre-back William Saliba in the summer for a fee of £27 million, as reported by the BBC. However, as part of the deal, the 18-year-old is spending the current campaign on loan at St Etienne, and will not join up with the Gunners until the coming summer.
Unai Emery was the man in the Arsenal dugout when Saliba was signed. He has subsequently been replaced by Mikel Arteta. The Spanish coach has wasted little time in bolstering his defensive contingent with his own signings. Centre-back Pablo Mari and right-back Cedric Soares both joined the club in the winter window.
Former Arsenal star Paul Merson is concerned that Saliba may now struggle to fit in at Arsenal, following these changes at the club that have taken place since he was signed. As quoted by the Daily Star, Merson said, “the defence is going to take time. He’s brought two defenders in with Cedric and Pablo Mari, and he’s got William Saliba coming in from France in the summer. Part of me wonders whether he wanted Mari because Saliba isn’t his signing, and there could be some conflict there. But he’s made good signings”.
This seems like an odd stance for Merson to take on this situation. For a start, the Gunners have only signed Mari on loan with an option to buy. That means that there is no guarantee he’ll be at the Emirates Stadium next season. What’s more, irrespective of Saliba’s imminent arrival, Arsenal’s defence still required reinforcements in January. The likes of Sokratis, David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi have struggled to impress regularly. Furthermore, Calum Chambers has been sidelined with a long-term injury.
On top of that, Saliba is still just a teenager. He has impressed in Ligue 1 this season, but expecting him to come in and immediately transform Arsenal’s defence would put a lot of pressure on him, and be reckless on Arteta’s part.
In all likelihood, Arteta is probably very excited to welcome Saliba into the fold, and will recognise that the Frenchman is an exciting talent but not the final piece in his defensive puzzle.