William Saliba will discover if he has a long-term future at Arsenal in the coming months.
As reported by football.london, the 20-year-old is keen to get his career in north London up and running having failed to make a single senior first-team appearance since joining the club from Saint-Etienne in the summer of 2019 for £27m.
Whilst Saliba has been getting game time over the past two-and-half seasons, it’s not been with Arsenal as his move to Marseille marks his third loan spell away from the Emirates Stadium.
A standout player for the Ligue 1 outfit so far this term – highlighted with an impressive showing to keep Paris Saint-Germain trio Neymar, Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe quiet last month – it remains to be seen if the Frenchman will ever get a chance with the Gunners.
All signs are pointing towards a crucial decision being made next summer after Mikel Arteta recently alluded to planning a conversation regarding what will happen after Saliba’s loan spell ends.
“Everything is linked, obviously the amount of centre-backs we could have in the team,” said Arteta when asked about Saliba being loaned out again this season.
“And because of William’s decision in his career right now, to get the minutes that he’s getting and make the progress that he’s making, we believe it was the right thing to do.
“As a club we’re always in touch, they went to see that game as well, Edu and Ben [Knapper, loan manager] was there to watch him and keep a close eye on him and the progress he’s making. Obviously, he’s our player and we do that with all the loan players we have.
“That’s a decision we will make in the summer. He’s our player and naturally that would happen but we’ll have to sit down and decide what the best step is next.”
Given the defender’s contract with his parent club is currently set to expire in June 2024, one can assume a decision will be made regarding whether to offer the central defender an extension.
A decision that has been made all the more easier following what happened in Saliba’s latest outing for Marseille on Sunday afternoon.
Whilst the 20-year-old helped Marseille keep yet another clean sheet, it was his role in the second half of the goalless draw at home to Metz that proves he can be an important member of the Arsenal squad next season.
Saliba believes he has the quality to start for the Gunners, so here are three ways Arteta can lineup his defence with the Frenchman during the 2022/23 campaign.
As mentioned above, Saliba was given a completely new role for Marseille’s draw against Metz.
Having been used by Jorge Sampaoli as a right-sided centre-half in a back three and back four this season, the Frenchman was pushed into the right-back position for the second half and was quite impressive.
As pointed out byThe Arsenal Way, Saliba – usually a more conservative defender – got forward at every chance and his output would have made the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Reece James and Achraf Hakimi proud.
Saliba completed 100% of his dribbles and put three crosses into the box.
On another day one of those crosses may have lead to a breakthrough and an assist for the 20-year-old, but his performance at right-back should give Arteta something to think about.
Of course, it’s not Saliba’s favoured position and Takehiro Tomiyasu has already made that spot his own, although it could be a route into the Arsenal side if the plan is to stick with a back four.
The dream trio
With that said, the most obvious solution to get Saliba, Benjamin White and Gabriel Magalhaes starting together in their natural positions would be to adopt a back three.
Arteta had success with this system at the beginning of his reign, winning the FA Cup final against Chelsea with it and beating both Manchester clubs without conceding too.
This season he has steered away from it, adopting a 4-3-2-1, 4-3-3 and even a 4-4-2 formation at times, but he still has the option of a back three up his sleeve.
White is comfortable in a back three having played in it with Brighton and Hove Albion, Saliba is getting used to it now with Marseille and Gabriel’s Arsenal career began alongside Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney as one of three central defenders.
It’s only the way to start all three in the same side without playing one out of position. Although, one dilemma for Arteta to solve would be who takes on the role as the leader in the middle of the back three.
For balance, Saliba centrally with White and Gabriel either side from right to left can be the dream partnership.
Repeat Guardiola trick
If Arsenal are back in Europe next season they’ll have more fixtures.
The one positive about not being in any European competition this term is it has allowed Arteta to settle on his first-choice back five and spend more time on the training pitch.
Given Arsenal’s clean sheet record with the White-Gabriel pairing, understandably Saliba will have to wait for his chance next season especially if the aforementioned duo’s partnership goes from strength to strength.
But this is where more fixtures and the need to rotate can help the Frenchman.
As Saliba has been used as a right-sided centre-back this season he can replace White in Arsenal’s back four. Alternatively, he can take Gabriel’s spot as he was given the left-sided role at times during his loan spell with Nice in the second half of last season.
Now, Arteta does have a preference for a left-footer to play as the left-sided defender, but he can repeat Pep Guardiola’s trick when it comes to rotating between his three main central defenders.
In City’s Premier League title-winning season last year, the Spaniard’s go-to centre-back pairing more often than not was two right-footers in John Stones and Ruben Dias, which left the two left-footers in Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake looking on.
Arteta could be presented with the same situation next season and already knows how to solve it.
Source by Football London