Gooners, go to the fancy cupboard, pull out a bottle of the expensive stuff, and find the nice glasses. We’re celebrating the biggest win of the last decade… neigh, the biggest win of the CENTURY.
William Saliba took his DECISION to French national TV and he… is STAYING.
Oh my god, I honestly don’t know what I’d have done if had decided to quit, regardless, we can ALL rest a little easier knowing that the Twitter this summer is going to be a little easier.
So what did the BIG man say?
‘I belong to Arsenal, I still have two years left’
‘I will be back with Arsenal. I have played zero matches and I still want to show them my true face and have the chance to play for these fans and this great club.
Honestly, I read lines like that and it makes me very happy, because this is basically what I’ve been saying about him all season. To make a career in football is a 180 in 1.5m chance, to make it in the Premier League, the chances are so slim, it’s almost not worth figuring out the stat because it’d have too many zeroes on it (I think it’s 0.02%). The idea that he was not going to want to get back to England and prove himself because he was offended by a loan was so, so far wide of the mark.
So what did the player say of his loan?
‘If I were to describe my season in a word? Surprising, or magical,’
‘It was my first full season. I was committed to showing people who I really am.’
‘The assessment is positive and I’m happy with my season. When you look at Marseille from the outside, you say: it’s good, but it’s make or break. So I told myself: “you’re going to this club and you can’t joke around, you can’t mess around, you have to play to the maximum every match”.
‘It’s as if I’ve been at Marseille for at least two or three years. It’s really special, even if I don’t return to Marseille, I’ll never forget it.
‘Thanks to Marseille, I reached the next level in my career; they lifted me.’
So for all the people that said ‘this loan move is offensive’ or ‘Arteta has really fucked up here’ well, there you have it. The player grew up, he knuckled down, he focused on his craft and he absolutely blew it out the park. I’m not sure there are many loans in history that have gone so well, they’ve ended up with a call-up to the World Champions.
The infantilization of Saliba that went on all season was so ridiculous and I am so happy that the player is showing that he’s not a baby. This boy came back a man and now he’s ready. His coach at Marseille, Jorge Sampaoli, had this to say on his development.
‘William’s progress is linked to his development this season and the maturity he now has and his playing time.
‘He is now consistent, he’s grown up as a player. In relation to his situation at the club, I hope that there is a possibility for us to retain a player like him, who knows the team.
Again, those comments are from an incredibly experienced coach, and he’s telling you why the player went out on loan. William Saliba made his mistakes on Marseille’s watch this season, he ironed out the immaturity in his game, and he learned how to go to war with a warrior coach. He made 52 appearances, clocking in 4500 minutes, which makes him the most experienced 21-year-old centre back in Europe. There were also concerns at Arsenal that he was fully developed physiologically, which would have made him susceptible to injuries, well, whatever they’ve tweaked behind the scenes, it seems to have worked, because that is an incredibly robust season. The Premier League is a different monster, but the foundations are clearly very strong.
Now the loan has worked, there are obviously going to be questions about whether Saliba could have stayed with Arsenal last season. Maybe he could have, but the bigger ask is this: Would he have landed more minutes than he did at Marseille? No way. Absolutely no chance. At best, he’d have made appearances at the backend of the season like Rob Holding and racked up 1000 minutes. There are no guarantees he’d have been in the right frame of mind to take on those minutes and the Premier League is much harder and faster, so the ride might have been bumpy.
The difference now is Saliba will be coming back with respect on his name, he’ll have an air about him, he’s in the French National squad, his reputation will be known in the dressing room. He is legitimately fighting for a first-team place next season, which is exactly what our defence needs.
What I’m most excited about is the interchangeable pieces we now have. William Saliba can do everything Ben White and Gabriel can do and he can also slip into right back. We have cover if Tomi get injured, we have a really powerful 3 at the back option with 3 outlets that can break the lines, and we also have rotation options now that don’t decimate how the team plays.
It’s all very exciting.
So in short, most of the hysterics around the loan move have been laid to rest.
- The player landed the most minutes of any 21 yr old centre back in Europe
- He played at a very high level and made a European semi final
- He’s on the record saying he’s brimming with confidence and he had a magical time
- He wants to prove himself with Arsenal this season
Say it quietly: The loan move was good.
… but my word, have a lot of people staked their football reputations on him. Let’s hope he lives up to the hype.
Also, I hope that this approach to developing players can now be seen as more acceptable. Not every young player is ready, loan moves give minutes and confidence, if the contracts are sorted, they can be very valuable. Balogun, BNC, Hutchinson, and Patino might all be eyeing a development move themselves this summer… William Saliba is now the case study in getting it right.
Right, that’s me done. I’m going to have king of the Saliba Ultras on a podcast later to talk about this stunning moment in their ever so short by stressed history.
Before we go… if you want to watch a video of me and Matt Kandela talking about the 1997-98 transfer window, subscribe to that damn Patreon and get amongst it. Someone reminded me that we were linked to Nano and Ibrahim Ba that window. I remember being explosively excited about those rumours. What a time to be alive. My favourite thing about that time is that every transfer was about hope… versus this miserable world we live in now when every transfer target seems to have 15 people queuing up to tell you why it’s shit.
This podcast is pure transfer joy and it has some really cool data in there that gives context to how hard we moved to get back to the top. ENJOY. If you aren’t subscribed, know that there are tiers to what you can pay, we know life is expensive at the moment, so whatever you can spare. xxx