Mikel Arteta admits he feels ‘really bad’ over the decision to omit William Saliba from Arsenal’s Europa League squad, but insists things are getting ‘better and better’ for the defender after a tough start to his Gunners career.
The 19-year-old was purchased for £27million from Saint-Etienne last summer and immediately sent back to the French club on a season-long loan as part of the deal.
His highly anticipated arrival at the Emirates at the start of the new campaign has so far been met with disappointment. Saliba is yet to make his competitive debut for Mikel Arteta’s side and the club considered sending him out on another loan spell back in the summer.
The Frenchman ended up sticking around, but was omitted from Arsenal’s 25-man Europa League squad.
With David Luiz, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari all out injured, the Gunners will face Dundalk on Thursday night with Gabriel and Shkodran Mustafi as the only natural centre-backs available for selection.
With his limited options in defence, Arteta expressed his regrets over leaving Saliba out of his European squad.
‘I feel really bad for William Saliba,’ Arteta said.
‘Because we had so many central defenders, we decided to leave him out of the squad which was really hurtful for me to do.
‘I was hoping that Pablo would be back in two weeks but he had a setback and then we don’t have Pablo and we don’t have William when he’s fit and available to play, but when you make those decisions, you can’t always think about every possible outcome.’
‘He’s in a much better place,’ Arteta added.
‘He’s feeling a lot more confident around the place, his language is improving and he’s starting to understand much better what we’re doing physically.
‘He’s played a few games with the under-23s which he needed because he didn’t play any football in the last seven or eight months. Things are progressively getting better and better.’