It is no doubt revealing that Mikel Arteta has sanctioned William Saliba’s return to Ligue 1 with Nice. There remains a school of thought that the young Frenchman, who cost £27m when he was signed, aged 18, from Saint-Étienne in July 2019, represents the future of Arsenal’s defence – one that for so often has been characterised by a lack of organisation and consistency.
Their investment in Pablo Marí and Gabriel Magalhães has given them greater potential in the defensive third, even if they need to continue to improve, but it is perhaps most telling of Arteta’s approach that despite his awareness of Saliba’s potential he is prioritising the defender’s development instead of prematurely asking him for too much. “I know how high the expectations are on him for next year but we have to bear in mind the age that he is at and what he has done in the past” the Arsenal manager said. “I will make sure that we create the right environment for him so that he can keep growing as a player.”