In pictures: Arsenal v Aston Villa
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Arsenal loanee William Saliba made another statement on Sunday evening by pocketing PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe. The youngster has been hugely impressive on loan at Marseille so far this campaign, prompting confusion as to why manager Mikel Arteta let him go in the first place while the Gunners struggle for consistent form in the Premier League.
Eyebrows were raised when Arteta and transfer chief Edu sanctioned Saliba’s departure on a third successive loan spell during the summer.
Since forking out £27million on him back in 2019, he has had temporary stints at Saint-Etienne, Nice and now Marseille.
Having been given a more prominent role each time, the 20-year-old has truly shone this campaign under esteemed manager Jorge Sampaoli.
On Sunday evening, he was given his sternest test so far against Mbappe, and he passed with flying colours as Marseille ground out a 0-0 draw.
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Gunners fans have understandably been keeping tabs on the progress of their coveted youngster this campaign, and another dazzling performance prompted a mixed reaction.
“Let’s loan Saliba so he can pocket Mbappe and Neymar but keep Rob Holding. Make it make sense,” vented Jason on Twitter.
Meanwhile, @AFC_Carys added: “Unbelievably composed, Saliba is a gem.”
Such an assured and accomplished performance came as yet another statement to Arteta that Saliba is ready to be fully integrated into first-team action next season.
Shockingly, the youngster has not made a single competitive appearance so far in his Arsenal career.
Ben White and Gabriel have been the pairing of choice this campaign, and the former has drawn criticism for his up-and-down performances since signing from Brighton this summer.
Their cover from the bench hardly inspires confidence either, with fans routinely venting about the likes of Rob Holding and Pablo Mari.
That could all change from next season if fans get their wish, with Saliba set to be a year older, more experienced and more physical.
In an attempt to address the confusion, Arteta admitted earlier this year: “I know that sometimes it’s difficult to explain or understand after the money that the club has spent trying to bring him in, to send him on loan.
“But a lot of things have happened to him he’s a long-term player for us and we need to protect him as well. And giving him three or four games is not enough.
“For him, he needs much more than that, because what happened in the last 18 months, he’s been through some personal problems as well that we have to try to help him and stay as close as possible to him.
“And now he needs to play, play and play and enjoy his profession as well. And in order to do that I think we found the right club with him.
“He’s very happy to go there now. Hopefully he can enjoy his football and be ready for us for next season.”
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