Mikel Arteta understands why questions are being asked about Arsenal’s decision to send William Saliba on loan – with £ 27million ($ 37million) invested – but the Gunners boss says the teenage defender has yet a bright future in North London.
The center-half made a major transfer to England in the summer of 2020, with a deal being made with Saint-Etienne 12 months earlier.
Saliba was expected to fit perfectly into the folds of Emirates Stadium, with his potential ready to be embraced by a Premier League side that have struggled defensively.
Arteta is however has not yet offered the youngster his competitive debut and has now allowed him to return to France and Join Nice for the rest of the season.
The Arsenal boss is keen to stress that he is not giving up on Saliba, with a deal struck in January to give him the best possible chance to make an impact for his parent club in 2021-2022.
Arteta told reporters: “We signed a big project with which we had problems because he has not played enough football in the last 18 months and at this age, and in the development phase where it turns out, this is crucial.
“I was always very aware when he came back, when he did not take the step he had to take before joining us, to start a relationship with a new manager, a new club, new teammates or it doesn’t have any playing time is really tough and i think it’s damaging for the future.
“I want to protect the player we signed and the future we have on his side and the best way to do that is to give him minutes to play.
“He’s been really good, it’s been a tough few months for him to deal with this situation but I see the development he’s made, the progression he’s shown over the months and now he’s ready to compete. .
“He also goes to a very strong league, a league he knows very well, he has experience [there] and he has to play as many games as possible to be ready for us from next season.
“He will come back for the preseason and he will be with us, and I hope he will come back after playing several games and [with] its performance is increasing and its development is progressing in the right direction. That’s why we made this decision.
“I know sometimes it’s hard to explain or understand after the money the club spent to bring him in, send him on loan, but a lot has happened to him, he’s a long-term player for us and we have to protect it too.
“Giving him three or four games is not enough for him, he needs a lot more than that, but what happened in the last 18 months, he has also been going through some personal issues that we have to try to help him and stay like that. as close to him as possible, and now he has to play and play and play and also enjoy his trade.
“So that he can do that I think we have found the right club with him, he is very happy to go there at the moment and I hope he can enjoy his football and be ready for us. next season. “
Saliba made his debut for Nice in their Ligue 1 clash with Brest on Wednesday and didn’t get the best start as he was booked in 11 minutes and conceded twice before halftime in a 2 loss -0.