Mikel Arteta says William Saliba is in his plans for next season and has promised to give the defender the chance to establish himself as a first-team star at Arsenal.
The 21-year-old has had a difficult time since joining the Gunners in a £27million deal in 2019 and is yet to make a senior appearance for the club, having been immediately loaned back to Saint-Etienne before further spells at Nice and Marseille.
His excellent performances in the south of France last season earned him a place in Didier Deschamps’ national team and there were suggestions he had reservations about returning to Arsenal.
Saliba wants regular first-team football in a World Cup year but had found opportunities limited under Arteta previously, though the Arsenal boss says things will be different this time around.
Speaking during the Gunners’ pre-season tour of the United States, Arteta said: ‘He is in the plans. We cannot guarantee first-team football to anybody in this team – you can ask that question to anybody.
‘What we guarantee is that the ones we really see and think are going to take us to the next level, they’re going to be playing a lot of minutes.
‘He’s a proper talent and he’s shown in the last year what can do. But in football it’s about what you do the next day – what everybody did three months ago or a month ago, it doesn’t really matter. It’s about what you do tomorrow and he’s going to have the chance to play.’
Arteta insists he and Saliba were always on the same page with regard to the defender’s development pathway at Arsenal and feels his loans have been hugely beneficial.
He continued: ‘The communication and the honesty we had between each other has always been very clear – I never promised minutes.
‘I was very clear from the beginning what to expect, we made the decision to wait a few months [to see] whether that situation could change, it didn’t and then we have to make a decision and we made the right call – those six months when he went away, and then the following year.
‘I think he’s improved in many areas, first of all because he has an incredible amount of minutes last year. He played to a really good level.
‘He was educated with a different coach in a different league and now it’s about putting all those things for the way we want to play and in our league which is a very different context. He needs to show that now.
‘I think he looked really confident and all that time he’s been abroad has built that confidence in him which is really important. Don’t forget the age he still is – how many players at his age play as a central defender at a big club in the Premier League?’
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