Mikel Arteta shown another big sign as to why he was wrong about William Saliba’s Arsenal omission

WIlliam Saliba has won a nomination for the Golden Boy 2021 award, joining Arsenal teammate Gabriel Martinelli on the provisional 40-player list.

The pool of players, which also includes Eduardo Camavinga, Mason Greenwood and Pedri among others, will be trimmed to 20 finalists by October 15, who will then be in contention for the illustrious award.

The 20-year-old centre-half, who is flourishing on loan at Marseille at the Gunners’ expense, will be looking to join a star-studded list of all-time greats who have won the award.

Previous winners include Wayne Rooney (2004), Lionel Messi (2005), Sergio Aguero (2007), Kylian Mbappe (2017) and Erling Haaland in 2020, however Saliba is poised to become the first defender to have ever won the award.

The France youth international arrived at the Emirates in 2017 from Saint Etienne for £27 million but is yet to make his competitive debut for the Gunners, despite his tremendous reputation in the football climate.

Mikel Arteta opted against retaining Saliba as part of his first-team squad this season and labelled the youngster as ‘not ready’, raising questions around the Spaniard’s tenure in light of Arsenal’s defensive woes.

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The north Londoners have leaked goals this season, conceding nine goals from five Premier League clashes and sit 13th in the Premier League.

Meanwhile, Saliba has played a pivotal hand in Marseille’s charge for Champions League football this season, sitting third in Ligue 1 after four games and conceding just five goals.

The centre-half is highly-regarded as one of France’s most promising youngsters by turning his ‘wonderkid’ status into reality, earning a place in the Ligue 1 matchday four team of the week after an assured display versus his childhood side.

Saliba followed his team of the week award with what was regarded as his best and most mature performance for Marseille versus AS Moanco in a 2-0 triumph.

While the Frenchman flourishes on loan, Arteta has been left to rue letting Saliba go as fans demand justification for his departure.

Marseille's French defender William Saliba (R) fights for the ball with Saint-Etienne's Wahbi Khazri (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images)
Marseille’s French defender William Saliba (R) fights for the ball with Saint-Etienne’s Wahbi Khazri (Photo by Nicolas TUCAT / AFP) (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images)

Saliba was signed under the tenure of Unai Emery rather than Arteta, who was quick to stamp his authority on the Emirates’ hallowed turf by prising two centre-backs of his own.

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The arrivals of Gabriel Magalhães from Lille and Ben White from Brighton served the Frenchman a pair of damning verdicts, subconsciously rolling the red carpet out for Saliba’s exit.

When Arteta was appointed as Arsenal boss he was quick to vow how he would revive Arsenal’s identity, and the arrival of two defenders for sizeable fees earmarked that statement.

Teemu Pukki of Norwich City is shut out by Arsenal duo Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Teemu Pukki of Norwich City is shut out by Arsenal duo Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Saliba is a ball-playing defender who enjoys possession, enjoys aerial duels and seemingly fits the philosophy of what Arteta is eying to achieve at Arsenal.

Come the end of the season, the 20-year-old defender will have had a Europa League campaign under his belt, just two year remaining on his deal and faces a key turning point in his career, namely deciding whether he has outgrown the Gunners or not.

Should Arteta have kept hold Saliba this season? And, what would your preferred back-four (or five!) be with Saliba in the squad? Let us know in the comments below!

Follow The Arsenal Way team – Jake, Tom, Bailey and Chris – on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

Source by Football London

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