Mikel Arteta Explains William Saliba's Omission From Arsenal Team So Far This Season

23 September 2020 11:00

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has explained that William Saliba is yet to play for the Gunners because the club is trying to protect the 19-year-old, who is still adapting to his new surroundings and suffered with injuries last season.

Arsenal completed the capture of Saliba, worth up an estimated £27m over time, in the summer of 2019 but allowed the player to stay on loan with former club Saint-Etienne for another 12 months.

The young centre-back played just 17 games in all competitions, largely because of a hamstring problem and later a broken foot. However, he returned to fitness and had started seven consecutive Ligue 1 games by the time the French season was abandoned amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Saliba was handed the number four shirt over the summer, pointing to a potentially significant role this season. But having been an unused substitute for the Community Shield against Liverpool at Wembley last month, he is yet to feature in a Premier League matchday squad.

His only action of any kind so far this season came last week as he captained Arsenal’s Under-23 side against Brighton in a Premier League 2 fixture.

Given that a number of other centre-backs have been sidelined with injury, his absences at first-team level have surprised Arsenal fans. However, Arteta insits he is being careful and biding his time.