While he wasn’t the only one, Arsenal legend Ian Wright publicly pondered why the Gunners had spent nearly £30million on William Saliba around 13 months ago after his old side were thrashed at Manchester City.
The Gunners were on the wrong end of a 5-0 drubbing at the Etihad in a game that saw a makeshift backline deployed by manager Mikel Arteta. At that time, Saliba had just started his third loan spell away from the club, this time at Marseille, while he hadn’t yet actually made a competitive appearance for Arsenal.
In Manchester, Arteta had named a back-five that consisted of Kieran Tierney, Sead Kolasinac, Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Cedric. For context, two of those players are no longer at the club while just one in Tierney actually still features regularly.
It prompted disastrous results, which in turn inspired Wright to launch a scathing assessment of the way his former side were handling Saliba. The Gunners legend failed to hide his confusion over the fact that one of the most highly sought young defenders was consistently being exiled on loan, while less talented options thrived at Arsenal.
“I’m supposed to believe that Kolasinac – someone that they’re trying to get rid of – is better than William Saliba?” he questioned on Premier League productions. “Saliba, who is out on loan and apparently not at the [required] standard.
“So if [Saliba] is not at the standard to play in this team – and Kolasinac can play – why have we bought him? Because if Kolasinac can play in front of him, what’s going on? Why have we bought him?”
Fast forward just over a year and there is certainly no one asking why Arsenal bought Saliba, as the young French international has adjusted to life in the English top-flight with ludicrous ease.
At just 20 years of age, the defender has already made that place in the heart of the Gunners backline his own and does not look likely to be dislodged any time soon.
Saliba even has two goals to his name, the first coming in the form of a stunning left-footed strike into the top corner against Bournemouth before a expertly-guided near-post header opened the scoring in Arsenal’s most recent outing away at Brentford.
His stellar start to life in North London has come with just two years remaining on his Arsenal contract as a result of the three separate loan spells away from the Emirates. As a result, speculation over Saliba’s club future and whether it lay elsewhere has already begun.
However, the Frenchman has been quick to insist he is happy where he is. Asked if he feels at home at Arsenal, Saliba told Sky Sports: “I’m at home here. I like London, I like the club, I like everything. I feel at home here.”