William Saliba is set to return to France and join OGC Nice on loan for the rest of the season, according to Sky Sports.
The Gunners signed the young defender from Saint-Etienne in 2019 for a reported fee of €30 million (£27m) and sent him back immediately on loan to rack up some first-team experience. However, the 2019-20 campaign was cut short in France and Arsenal weren’t happy with the total amount of time spent on the pitch with his former club.
Saliba was left out of the squad for this season, both for the Premier League and the Europa League, and he is yet to make a first-team appearance in a match in any competition, with manager Mikel Arteta not seeing him as ready to join his ranks just yet. It’s obvious Arteta and the club want Saliba to get some more experience before giving him a proper chance.
“I’m fed up with the situation because, as you could see, we tried to find a way in the last few days to give him some football,” Arteta said about him in November.
“I explained that he needed that transition year when we decided to buy him and send him on loan to Saint-Etienne. For many reasons, that didn’t happen – he didn’t have that transition year and he needs to go through that. At the moment, with the amount of central defenders we have in the team, we had to leave him out of the squad, which is painful. Now we have some injuries and we could have used him but this is part of the profession.”
Nonetheless, Arsenal still see Saliba as a part of their plans for the future, and the temporary deal will not be giving Nice an option to turn it permanent. With the likes of Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos highly unlikely to be at the club past next summer, and David Luiz possibly heading towards the exit door as well at the end of the season, Saliba shouldn’t have too much trouble settling in ahead of the 2021-22 season.