William Saliba has joined French club Marseille on loan for the remainder of the 2021/22 season, the move does not include a purchase option. Saliba has also not extended his contract with the club before moving either.
This will be Saliba’s third loan move in the three years that he has been with Arsenal, prompting an angry outcry from Arsenal fans who want to see the defender live up to the promise he has shown during his previous two loan spells.
Saliba was initially signed from French side Saint-Étienne, however, given the complications that arose amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the French league was cut short, as too was Saliba’s ability to play. Arsenal had hoped that he would have a chance to impress in pre-season, however, given the limited pre-season available before the 2020/21 season, the decision was taken that Saint-Étienne should spend another season on loan.
This too was fraught with complications. Arsenal had initially intended to loan Saliba out in the summer for a full season, however, the club was unable to come to an agreement with Saint-Étienne for Saliba to return to them on loan and he was unable to leave. The issue arose as Arsenal had already submitted their squads for the Europa League two days prior, which the club had omitted Saliba from, believing him to be leaving on loan.
The furstration grew as they were unable to play him in any first-team matches and he was therefore loaned out in January to OGC Nice for the next six months, where, by all accounts, he heartily impressed.
Arsenal fans had hoped to catch a glimpse of Saliba this season, but Saliba has once again been loaned out. While Arsenal fans will likely come to the somewhat logical conclusion that Saliba is disliked by manager, Mikel Arteta, the reality is a little more straight-forward.
Saliba has only played twelve months of senior football in the past two years, which means that his development while on loan has been somewhat hampered; Arsenal want to see him get a full season of football under his belt as soon as possible before they risk him in the Premier League.
Then there is the issue of recruitment. Arsenal’s interest in Brighton defender Ben White is well-known and the club are keen to splash as much as £50m on the defender, meaning that Saliba would slip to third in the pecking order behind White and Rob Holding.
The optimist tells Arsenal fans that with a full-season of football under his belt in France (and with Holding likely being moved on next summer), Arsenal will then give Saliba his chance to shine next season.
The pessimist will tell Arsenal fans that Arteta is sizing Saliba up ahead of a potential move next summer, which will likely see the club chalk up a loss in financials, a huge blow to their credentials with young signings in the future and will likely become a bit of a laughing stock for their treatment of an extremely gifted player.
Saliba joins former teammate Mattéo Guendouzi at Marseille, though Guendouzi’s is a permanent deal.