Arsenal make decision over permanent exit for William Saliba in January

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Arsenal have reportedly made a decision over William Saliba’s fate in the January transfer window. The defender has been linked with a move away from the Premier League club, having so far failed to break into Mikel Arteta’s team.

Saliba was expected to bolster the manager’s first-team options when he arrived at the Emirates in the summer.

But his loan spell at Saint-Etienne last season had not gone entirely to plan, with the 19-year-old’s campaign disrupted by injuries before the coronavirus pandemic forced the curtailment of the Ligue 1 season.

It meant Saliba had not had the transition year planned for him after Unai Emery signed him for £27million from Saint-Etienne the previous summer.

A loan back to the French club fell through in the final days of this summer’s transfer window, and the centre-back was left out of Arteta’s Europa League squad – which the manager later admitted he regretted.

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Saliba’s lack of action has led to speculation he will be sold in the new year – with Gabriel Magalhaes, Rob Holding, David Luiz, Shkodran Mustafi, Calum Chambers and Pablo Mari all ahead of him in the Arsenal pecking order.

However, the Gunners still believe in his potential and plan to loan him out once the transfer window re-opens, according to The Athletic.

The publication reports that Saliba’s preference would be to join a club in the UK, which would help speed up his adaptation to the physical demands of English football.

But there is also plenty of interest from France if a move to another Premier League club or Championship outfit fails to materialise.

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With Arsenal competing in the Europe League and playing two matches per week, the fixture schedule has left little time for Saliba to train alongside the Gunners’ first-team stars.

When the whole group is together, he is often among the players used as practice opposition due to the urgency of having to prepare for the next game.

It is hoped that another loan spell will mean Saliba is better prepared for next season, when he should face less competition in the centre-back ranks as Luiz, Mustafi and the out-of-favour Sokratis are coming to the end of their contracts.

Speaking in November, Arteta revealed how he was annoyed by the break-down of Saliba’s planned return to Saint-Etienne on loan.

“I’m fed up with the situation because, as you could see, we tried to find a way in the last few days to give him some football,” Arteta said.

“I explained that he needed that transition year when we decided to buy him and send him on loan to Saint-Etienne. For many reasons, that didn’t happen – he didn’t have that transition year and he needs to go through that.

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“At the moment, with the amount of central defenders we have in the team, we had to leave him out of the squad, which is painful. Now we have some injuries and we could have used him but this is part of the profession.”

Saliba has been restricted to appearances for Arsenal’s under-23s and U21s, having played twice in the EFL Trophy and five times in Premier League 2.

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