Gabriel Martinelli and William Saliba both joined Arsenal in the summer of 2019, but it’s safe to say their journeys since have been the polar opposite. Although, they are on course to be reunited for the 2022/23 season.
Whilst the Brazilian was immediately integrated into the first-team picture following his move from Ituano, Saliba headed back to Saint-Etienne on loan to continue his development during the 2019/2020 campaign and has enjoyed two further loan spells back in France ever since. As a result, the 21-year-old is still yet to make a single senior appearance for Arsenal following his £27million transfer and it remains to be seen if he will be handed an opportunity to finally kick-start his career in north London next season as important talks regarding his future are imminent.
Currently enjoying a productive loan spell with Marseille which has come with the reward of a call-up to the France senior squad for the first time, Saliba has admitted he would be open to extending his stay with the Ligue 1 outfit but concedes the final decision rests with his parent club.
“I never hid that I felt good here,” he told RMC Sport. “I don’t know my future, there are two months left. The most important thing is to qualify for the Champions League and go as far as possible in the Conference League. “I think there will be discussions afterwards, at the end of May, beginning of June, with Arsenal and Marseille. We will decide at that time. But it is sure that continuing here would not be a bad idea. On the contrary, I know the city, my team-mates, my coach. But it’s not just up to me. “We’ll see how it goes, but it also depends on Arsenal, who has to agree. We’ll see.”
Interestingly, football.londonspoke to former Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Petit regarding Saliba’s future and he urged the defender to seek guarantees from Gunners manager Mikel Arteta about regular game time next season if he’s to make a return to the Emirates Stadium.
“But to convince Arteta he will need regular games [at Arsenal]. Does he have the guarantee that if he comes back to Arsenal, he will play every single game? I’m not sure about that,” Petit said. “He is in the first eleven team with Marseille, he is playing every single game. He is probably the [most used]. As I said, if you ask him to come back to Arsenal then he will need guarantees.”
Of course, given the form this season of Benjamin White and Gabriel Magalhaes – Arteta’s first-choice central defensive pairing – Saliba will initially, at least, have his work cut out trying to climb ahead of one in the pecking order should he be integrated into the Arsenal squad for the 2022/23 campaign. With that said, as the Gunners are most likely being in Europe next season, more games would offer Saliba a chance to prove himself. As does taking a leaf out of Martinelli’s book. At the start of the campaign, the forward found himself on the fringes with the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe all ahead of him with regards to wide options.
However, after taking his chance over the festive period with Smith Rowe and Saka both picking up knocks, there’s an argument that Martinelli keeps the former out of the side when both are available for selection thus becoming part of Arteta’s core group of undroppables. The same can apply to Saliba if he pursues a future in north London and grabs his opportunity with both hands, making it impossible for him to be dropped as Arteta has shown a willingness to stick with the player in form even if it means one of his regulars has to bide his time out of the side for a while.