William Saliba was undoubtedly a key player for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side in 2022/23, making 33 appearances by mid-March before an injury ended his season early.
Arsenal were very keen to extend the 22-year-old’s contract beyond 2024, and they succeeded this week. The centre-back put pen to paper on a new deal to 2027 and earned a new squad number as well.
Yet throughout the last few years, there’s been plenty of speculation of an internal rift between Saliba, Mikel Arteta, and those in charge of decision-making at Arsenal.
After all, it was only in 2022/23 that the defender eventually made his competitive debut for the club, over three years after signing for the Gunners.
Saliba spent time back on loan at Saint-Etienne, he played for OGC Nice and Olympique de Marseille, and he spent a few months with the Arsenal u23s in 2020.
Some supporters speculated that this might have caused problems between Saliba and Arteta, with the Arsenal manager seemingly not showing faith in the defender.
But today, it’s clear that Arteta believes in Saliba and intends to make him a key part of his squad.
Many are coming around to the idea that the loans were good for Saliba’s development after all, and the defender argued that point after signing his new deal.
“I show up, a kid you’ve never heard of, and then I keep going away to different clubs before you get to see me play,” Saliba began.
“But I know now this was the best plan for me, and last summer when I came back to the club and became a pivotal part of the team, words cannot describe how I feel here.
“Having the confidence of the boss and the staff, and then having your love and support, made me feel 10 feet tall.”
“It’s good sometimes to learn like this,” Saliba added in another post-contract interview with Arsenal. “I didn’t play when I [first] came, so I learned a lot. I became a new man.
“It’s important for the mentality and then I came back stronger last summer and I knew I would have a chance if I play well.
“I had the confidence of the coach and all the players so it was easy for me. But yeah, it’s a good experience because had it been easy, maybe I would not be happy as I am today.
“The first two years [were] hard and now I’m happy because I worked hard and I didn’t give up.”