Mikel Arteta has explained why he didn’t speak to William Saliba for the first week of Arsenal’s pre-season tour.
Saliba’s Arsenal future was up in the air after he returned to the Emirates Stadium last summer following his third loan spell in as many years.
The Gunners spent around £27m to sign Saliba from Saint-Etienne in 2019 but the centre-back was loaned straight back to the French side to continue his development.
Saliba spent another season in the French top-flight at Nice and then enjoyed a breakthrough season with Marseille in which he was named the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year.
But he was still yet to make an appearance for Arsenal and Arteta admits several questions had to be answered before he could be seen as a viable member of his first-team.
Arteta decided not to speak to Saliba for the first week of Arsenal’s pre-season tour in an attempt to suss him out but was soon won around by the talented 21-year-old.
‘The first question was how the player is going to reintegrate into our dynamic after being out for so long,’ Arteta said when asked about Saliba’s integration last summer.
Is there some frustration there, something personal between, for example, between me and the player because he could not understand that?
‘Or his environment, his expectations coming back or the amount that we paid for him, his age?
‘Is it the same to do it in France as it is to do it in this league for Arsenal because you don’t have 21-year-old defenders at the top level in England?’
For the first week I didn’t speak to him. I just wanted to see – naturally, without me really interfering in his thoughts – how he was.
‘Because then you can understand the real him and after that I spoke to him.’
Revealing how Saliba proved he could make an impact at Arsenal, Arteta added: ‘He had an immediate impact… the first two training sessions that we looked at him and thought: “There’s huge potential here”.
His attitude, the way he came in and said: “I’m going to prove that I’m very good and I deserve to be here.” Without any looking back, or being shy – he was doing it the right way.’
Saliba has started all 25 of Arsenal’s Premier League games this season, impressing in a centre-back partnership alongside Gabriel to help the Gunners go five points clear at the top of the table.