William Saliba admits being dropped to Arsenal's Under-23s by Mikel Arteta felt like a 'good slap'... but respects the Gunners boss' decision to not include him in his first-team plans in two years

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William Saliba has still not played for Arsenal since joining for £25million in 2019The centre-back has continuously been told he is not ready by Mikel ArtetaThe 20-year-old Frenchman is currently impressing on loan at Marseille this termSaliba has only played for Arsenal's U23s which he says felt like a 'good slap'

William Saliba has revealed he respects Mikel Arteta’s call to cut him out of Arsenal’s first team plans without playing a game – but admits being dropped to the club’s Under-23s team was a ‘good slap’.

The French centre-back moved to 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. 

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

William Saliba admits that being asked to play in Arsenal's U23s felt like a 'good slap'

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

Saliba(right) joined Arsenal for £25million in 2019 but has never played a game for the Gunners

Global Tech News Daily

Saliba(right) joined Arsenal for £25million in 2019 but has never played a game for the Gunners

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

‘There are things like that in football,’ Saliba told RMC Sport. ‘There are difficult times. It’s not all 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 said to myself that I was going to play, I was convinced I would, I wondered who I was going to play with. I then arrived, I didn’t play any games, I played with the Under-23s. It gave me a good slap.

‘Today, I am more focused. We have to do more each time. For the coach (Arteta), I wasn’t ready yet. When there was the first lockdown, I was at home in Paris. I didn’t do anything at all, I only ran a little, I didn’t have any physical condition.

Mikel Arteta (above) has claimed Saliba is not ready for Arsenal for two straight seasons now

Mikel Arteta (above) has claimed Saliba is not ready for Arsenal for two straight seasons now

‘Then the question was asked 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 regain physical condition.

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

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

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

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

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

The Gunners tried to find the centre-back a new club at the start of the 2020-21 season but failed to find a suitable option for him. For the first-half of that season, Saliba played six times for Arsenal’s Under-23s team, 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 games so far. 

The 20-year-old was named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year by experts in 2021 but there is no option for OM to make the loan permanent at the end of the season. 

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