William Saliba weighed in on why it took three years to make his Arsenal debut, and dropped a small hint a contract breakthrough is close.
Arsenal signed Saliba from Saint-Étienne in 2019 for a transfer fee of around £27m. The centre-half was highly rated in France and hopes were high he’d make an instant impact after his initial loan back to Saint-Étienne concluded.
However, two further loan stints back to France materialised, with Saliba joining Nice and then Marseille.
The 21-year-old took giant strides forward at Marseille last term, scooping the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year award and earning a place in the Ligue 1 Team of the Season.
After a three-year wait, Saliba was finally given the chance to shine in north London and he’s wasted little time grasping it with both hands.
Saliba has started every league match so far this season, something that has pushed Ben White over to right-back.
He already has a pair of goals to his name too, with his latest opening the scoring against Brentford on Sunday afternoon.
Ahead of the clash, Saliba spoke to Sky Sports’ Vicky Gomersall and covered a wide range of topics.
Firstly, Saliba was asked why it took so long to finally make his mark with the Gunners.
Saliba back stronger than ever
“Sometimes football is like this, it’s hard,” he said. “But now I’m back stronger with a lot of ambition.
“I’m so happy to be back and to play with Arsenal.
When asked what sparked such a remarkable change, Saliba continued: “Because I was on loan I played a lot of games.
“Now I’m back with some experience. I [made] some mistakes but when you play you can make mistakes.
“To learn, to learn, to learn. Even when you play bad you learn as well.”
Rumours are rife Saliba is on the verge of penning a long-term extension at Arsenal. His current deal expires in the summer of 2024.
Saliba did not confirm or deny those rumours, though did suggest he is more than happy with life at Arsenal when a potential new contract was brought up by Gomersall.
New contract, World Cup, Arsenal hero
When asked if north London finally feels like home, he added: “For sure.
“I’m at home here, I like London, I like the club, I like everything. I’m at home here.
Saliba was named in the latest France squad for their Nations League clashes with Austria and Denmark next week.
He holds a genuine chance of making Didier Deschamps’ final cut for Qatar, though given France’s depth in the position, he’ll need to maintain his excellent start.
The likes of Ibrahima Konate, Presnel Kimpembe and Wesley Fofana were all overlooked for one reason or another. All will have ambitions of breaking back in.
On his own World Cup ambitions, Saliba continued: “When you represent your country it’s amazing.
“My dream is to play in the World Cup with my country. I hope I’ll be in the team.
Finally, Saliba was asked if he had any footballing heroes he looked up to when growing up.
After clarifying whether the interviewer meant from Arsenal, Saliba unsurprisingly named a fellow Frenchman who is arguably Arsenal’s greatest ever player.
“Thierry Henry,” said Saliba. “I like the person because he’s so good. I liked his aura, I liked him for everything.”
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