William Saliba appears to have lashed out at Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta for not giving him a chance.
The young defender arrived to the club for £27m in 2019. The team was in a crisis regarding the centre-back department at the time, and his arrival was seen as a significant promise for the future. He was sent back to Saint-Etienne on a season-long loan with the hope being he would have gained valuable first-team experience before coming back to the Emirates in 2020. However, the season in France was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Arteta later judged him not to have matured sufficiently to wear the Arsenal shirt yet.
This January, the 19-year-old went back to France once more, this time to play for OGC Nice for the rest of the season. He hit the ground running there and was immediately named the Player of the Month at the Ligue 1 club.
The change in fortunes caused by the move seems to have inspired a large dose of boldness when in the public eye, and it remains to be seen how Arteta will react to his words to RMC Sport.
“He [Arteta] judged me on two and a half matches,” he said, as relayed by Sky Sports.
“I would have liked for him to play me more. But he told me I wasn’t ready. I was waiting for him to give me a chance, but football is like that. When I initially came to Arsenal the league looked very good, so I showed up to training and wanted to train on my own to show the coach I was ready.
“I am happy now. I want to play for Nice. The idea when you’re part of a team is a better feeling for me.”
There is nothing wrong for a player to want to play and to believe he deserves a chance, but words like that usually serve much better when they’re said to the coach directly, rather than to a media outlet. With all due respect to his talents and quality on the pitch, what he said only proved Arteta’s original assessment was correct – he is not ready. He is not yet mature enough to deal with the pressures a top-level professional athlete has to endure.