Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has revealed that young centre-back William Saliba has made immense progress in recent weeks after initially struggling to adapt to life at the Emirates Stadium.
The 19-year-old, who was signed for a whopping £27m last summer but only made the move to London this year, is yet to play a single minute of senior football for Arsenal and was surprisingly left out of the Gunners’ Europa League squad.
It’s a decision which has blown up in Arteta’s face as Pablo Marí, David Luiz, Rob Holding and Calum Chambers are all sidelined with injuries. With Sokratis Papastathopoulos also out of the Europa League squad, Arteta only has Gabriel Magalhães and Shkodran Mustafi as available senior defenders.
“He’s in a much better place,” the boss revealed (via the Evening Standard). “He’s feeling a lot more confident around the place, his language is improving and he’s starting to understand much better what we’re doing physically.
“He’s played a few games, with the Under-23s, which he needed because he didn’t play any football in the last seven or eight months. Things are progressively getting better and better.
“I feel really bad for William Saliba. Because we had so many central defenders we decided to leave him out of the squad, which was really hurtful for me to do.”
The injury crisis has proven to be a real problem for Arteta, but the boss insisted it’s all part of football and he’s not prepared to start complaining.
“I feel really lucky to be where I am sitting right now,” he noted. “But this can happen. If we had ten [centre-backs] maybe we would still be in the same position.
“There are different cases. Musti was carrying that injury from last season, with Calum it’s exactly the same situation. With Pablo he had surgery on his ankle and David rarely gets injured and we don’t think it’s a big thing, but it’s going to keep him out for a few weeks.
“And Rob is the same case, but if anything with him it’s the amount of minutes he has already played when in the last nine or 12 months he hadn’t played but he had to step in because we didn’t have many solutions there. So it’s a combination of factors.
“We have to cautious and we have to manage that position very carefully because if we lose another one, then we will be in big trouble, so of course, we will have to keep an eye on how we manage the squad in the next two or three games.”