William Saliba admits being dropped from Arsenal Under-23s by Mikel Arteta felt like a ‘good slap in the face’

William Saliba admits being sacked to Arsenal Under-23s by Mikel Arteta felt like a ‘good slap in the face’… but Marseille Loanee insists he respects the decision to drop him from first-team plans for two years for physical fitness problems

  • William Saliba still hasn’t played for Arsenal since joining for £25million in 2019
  • The centre-back was continually told he wasn’t ready by Mikel Arteta
  • The 20-year-old Frenchman is currently impressing on loan at Marseille this term
  • Saliba only played for Arsenal’s U23s which he says was a ‘good slap in the face’











William Saliba has revealed he respects Mikel Arteta’s plea to drop him from Arsenal’s first-team plans without playing a game – but admits being sent back to the club’s Under-23 squad was a “good slap”.

The French centre-back joined the Gunners for £25million in the summer of 2019 when Unai Emery was in charge but has still never played a professional game for the Premier League side.

Arteta has twice sent Saliba out on loan to secure more first-team football opportunities – at Nice in the winter of 2021 and at Marseille at the start of this season – with the 20-year-old frozen in the youth team. ‘Arsenal when he was training in London.

William Saliba admits being asked to play in Arsenal’s U23s was a ‘good slap’

Saliba (right) joined Arsenal for £25million in 2019 but only played for the Under-23s

Saliba (right) joined Arsenal for £25million in 2019 but only played for the Under-23s

Saliba admitted he expected to play regularly for Arsenal when he joined two-and-a-half years ago, but revealed his injury contributed to his lack of playing time with the Gunners.

“There are things like that in football,” said Saliba RMC Sports. “There are difficult times. All is not rosy. Even if it didn’t go well on a personal level, I take it as an experience. It gave me a stronger mentality.

“Before going to Arsenal, I thought I was going to play, I was convinced that I would, I wondered who I was going to play with. I arrived then, I didn’t play any matches, I played with the Under 23s. It gave me a good slap.

“Today I’m more focused. We have to do more each time. For the coach (Arteta), I was not ready yet. When there was the first confinement, I was at home in Paris. I didn’t do anything at all, I only ran a little, I had no physical condition.

Mikel Arteta (above) claimed Saliba hasn't been ready for Arsenal for two consecutive seasons now

Mikel Arteta (above) claimed Saliba hasn’t been ready for Arsenal for two consecutive seasons now

“Then, I was asked the question of whether I was going to play in the Coupe de France (for Saint-Etienne). Then I came back. I trained for two weeks on my own. We had two or three friendlies but I had to find my physical condition.

“The league then followed quickly and the coach (Arteta) felt that I was not ready. I respect his decision.

Arsenal believed Saliba needed a year of transition after his £25million signing, so sent him on loan to former club Saint-Etienne for the 2019-20 season.

Saliba (left) is currently on loan at Marseille where he has impressed in 20 appearances so far

Saliba (left) is currently on loan at Marseille where he has impressed in 20 appearances so far

But hamstring and metatarsal setbacks limited him to just 12 league games that season, with new boss Arteta claiming he was not ready for first-team football as he lacked training time. game during this year of transition.

The Gunners attempted to find a new club for the centre-back at the start of the 2020-21 season but failed to find a suitable option for him. For the first half of this season, Saliba played six times for Arsenal’s Under-23 side, before joining Nice on loan.

But Arteta still believed Saliba was not ready at the start of this season and sent him on loan to Marseille, where he has impressed in his 20 league appearances so far.

The 20-year-old has been named the Ligue 1 team of the year by pundits in 2021 but there is no option for Marseille to make the loan permanent at the end of the season.



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