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‘A bit of a smack’ – William Saliba opens up on joining Arsenal’s reserves and the ‘turning point’ at Marseille

‘A bit of a smack’ – William Saliba opens up on joining Arsenal’s reserves and the ‘turning point’ at Marseille

William Saliba (23) may now be an established figure in the Arsenal team but that wasn’t always the case. In the wake of his €30m move from AS Saint-Étienne back in 2019, he was immediately loaned back to Les Verts. When he did link up with his new North London teammates one year later, he found himself on the periphery. Speaking to L’Équipethe Frenchman has re-traced those difficult first steps at Arsenal.

A promising prospect, Saliba joined Arsenal for a big fee and naturally, with high expectations. However, in his opening months, he couldn’t get near the first team. He has now admitted that he found this phase of his career difficult. “I started young at Saint-Étienne. People believed in me. When things are going badly, you have a tendency to let your head drop. When Arsenal buy you for €30m and you play with the U23s, naturally, that gives you a bit of a smack,” said Saliba.

Six months later, he went out on loan to OGC Nice, however, upon his return to the Emirates Stadium, there was still no room for him to break through. Another loan spell therefore followed and it was this one that allowed him to finally make the step. “The year at Olympique de Marseille was a big turning point in my career […] I was good right from the opening matches. I liked the club and I think we could have won the title that year. I had a great connection with the fans. Thanks to this season, I came back to Arsenal stronger,” he told L’Équipe. 

That loan spell at Marseille not only paved the way for Saliba to break into the France team, it also allowed him to break into the starting XI at Arsenal. He has not been displaced since.

GFFN | Luke Entwistle