Mikel Arteta’s thoughts on William Saliba’s Arsenal future as exit announced

William Saliba has endured a frustrating spell at Arsenal and is on the brink of being shipped out on loan to Nice – but that's not to say he doesn't have a long-term future at the club.

After signing from Saint-Etienne in the summer of 2019, then Gunners boss Unai Emery decided to send the central defender back to the French club for the duration of the 2019/20 season.

The 19-year-old linked up with the Premier League club permanently in the summer and there was an expectation that Saliba would fight for a first-team spot under Arteta this season.

However, the Spaniard has been reluctant to throw Saliba into the fray this season, and hinted back in October that this campaign could be another year of transition.

"For many reasons, that wasn't the transition year that he needed because he had a lot of injuries, some personal injuries and also with COVID and the French league getting cancelled, he didn't have that year," Arteta said.

"He needs that year of transition and we are trying to make the right decisions for him to give him the best transitional year for him to have the player we want in our future."

Their short-term plan has now come to fruition, with news emerging on Monday that Saliba is set to return to France this month to join Nice on loan.

However, comments made by Arteta last month suggest Saliba has made improvements and may well be in a position to fight for first-team football next season.

He said: “Whenever we have the spaces and we believe that he’s ready to play with us.

"To be fair, he’s made massive improvements in the last few months and it’s been a really tricky situation for him.

"As I mentioned before, designed a pathway for him and there were a lot of things that happened to him in his personal life and professionally as well.

"Now we’ve made some steps forwards, he’s working really hard and played for the under-21s again."

The £27million defender is heading back to Ligue 1 on a temporary deal with Patrick Vieira's former club, as first reported by Nice-Matin.

Saliba is undergoing a medical on a switch which will see the French side pay his wages in full, but not hand over any loan fee.

Saliba, 19, has since trained regularly with the Arsenal first-team but has yet to make his competitive first-team debut and was excluded from the club's Europa League squad.

Instead, he has been used in the club's Under-23 side, despite finally arriving last summer with a burgeoning reputation in his homeland following his exploits at his boyhood club.

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