Mikel Arteta remains adamant that William Saliba has a long-term future at Arsenal, despite sanctioning the decision to loan out the £27million signing before he has made his first team debut for Arsenal.
Much was expected of the 19-year-old following his arrival from Saint-Etienne, but Arteta, along with the club’s backroom staff, have deemed the defender not yet ready for the Premier League.
Saliba was not included in Arsenal’s domestic or European squads and has featured only in a handful of matches for the club’s Under-23s this season.
With an abundance of central defenders still on their books, Arteta has taken the decision to send the France Under-21 international on loan to Nice for the remainder of the campaign and he made his debut in last night’s 2-0 defeat against Brest.
‘We signed a big project that we had some issues with because he’s not played enough football over the past 18 months and at that age, and in the development phase he is at, that is crucial,’ said Arteta.
‘I was always very conscious when he came back, when he didn’t do the step that he had to before joining us, that to start a relationship with a new manager, a new club, new team-mates where he is not having any game-time is really difficult and I think it is damaging for the future.
‘I want to protect the player that we signed and the future we have alongside him and the best way to do that is to give him minutes to play. He has been really good, it has been a difficult few months for him to cope with that situation but I see the development that he has made, the progression that he has shown over the months and now he is ready to compete.
‘He is going to a really strong league as well, a league he knows really well, he has experience [there] and he needs to play as many games as possible to be ready for us from next season.
‘He will come back for pre-season and he will be with us, and hopefully he will come back after playing a number of games and [with] his performances raising and his development progressing in the right way. That is why we made that decision.
‘Giving him three or four games is not enough for him, he needs much more than that but what has happened over the past 18 months, he has gone through some personal problems as well that we have to try to help him, and stay as close as possible to him, and now he needs to play, play and play and enjoy his profession as well.
‘In order for him to do that I think we have found the right club with him, he is very happy to go there right now and hopefully he can enjoy his football and be ready for us next season.’