Arsenal have loaned out French defender William Saliba on a six-month loan deal to French side OGC Nice. There is no buy option included in the deal, with Nice covering 100% of Saliba’s wages.
It was thought that Saliba, who was signed from Saint-Étienne in a £27m deal last season, was thought to be rejoining his former side in the summer for a season-long loan deal, however, the two clubs were unable to complete their paperwork in time for the transfer deadline.
Saliba has endured something of a confusing and torrid time since his move from Saint-Étienne in 2019. Part of the purchase option Arsenal took up initially meant that the young French defender was required to stay at Saint-Étienne for the remainder of the 19/20 season.
However, Saliba’s season was hampered by injuries and then, just as the youngster was beginning to find both form and consistent game-time, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Saliba was required to sit out the remainder of the campaign as the French FA halted Ligue 1’s progress.
Saliba was then dealt a further blow by the fact that he was unable to take part in Saint-Étienne’s Coup de France final against PSG, as Arsenal and Saint-Étienne were unable to come to a financial agreement that would allow the player to play.
Issues off the field has also plagued Saliba, with family bereavement also likely to have played a part in Saliba’s continued exile.
Upon returning to Arsenal, he took part in Arsenal’s 1-4 pre-season friendly over MK Dons, were he showed impressive technique, however, it was known that Arsenal planned to loan the Frenchman out once again.
As Arsenal failed to secure a loan either domestically or abroad (Brentford had been rumoured to be interested in the player), Saliba saw his game-time drop significantly, with Arsenal failing to register the defender in their UEFA Europa League squad, which meant that he was unable to play. Though Saliba is registered as part of Arsenal’s Premier League squad, this is to meet homegrown criteria and for youth availability, rather than because Mikel Arteta sees the Frenchman as part of his plans moving forward.
The treatment of Saliba has seemed a little bit unfair from Arteta. While Saliba’s lack of game-time since March is largely out of his hands and the failure to place the Frenchman in his European squad is largely down to Edu and former chief-negotiator Huss Fahmy being unable to secure a loan for the erstwhile defender, there have been plenty of opportunities to include him in Premier League matches.
Though Arsenal’s form would likely have done Saliba any favours and would have likely been seen as something of a Baptism of Fire, the defender would likely have faired better than David Luiz or Shkodran Mustafi, the two of which Saliba is expected to be a replacement for, given that both are free to negotiate with clubs abroad as of the January window opening.
Saliba joins Sead Kolašinac, who re-joined Schalke 04 on loan earlier this week. Rumours are also persistent that Sokratis, Mesut Özil and David Luiz may be moved on in January as well. The club have worked hard to try and trim the proverbial fat from the squad, but long-term solutions are unlikely this January.
Though names such as Isco have been touted as potential a January incoming, Arsenal’s main target to solve their creative problems are Julian Brandt, Houssem Aouar, Christopher Nkunku and Emiliano Buendia, all of which seem unlikely in January.