Full details as William Saliba leaves Arsenal for France return in January deal

William Saliba is leaving Arsenal on loan to return to France with Nice.

The £27million defender is heading back to Ligue 1 on a temporary deal with Patrick Vieira's former club, as first reported by Nice-Matin.

Saliba is undergoing a medical on a switch which will see the French side pay his wages in full, but not hand over any loan fee.

The decision comes with Saliba having struggled to make an impression at the Emirates this term, with Mikel Arteta not deeming him yet ready for Premier League action.

He would have departed late in the summer transfer window, had a paperwork issue not scuppered a return to former club Saint-Etienne.

Saliba, 19, has since trained regularly with the first-team but has yet to make his competitive first-team debut and was excluded from the club's Europa League squad.

Instead, he has been used in the club's Under-23 side, despite finally arriving last summer with a burgeoning reputation in his homeland following his exploits at his boyhood club.

This season has seen Arteta use a plethora of centre-backs at the heart of his defence, as the Spaniard has chopped and changed between using a flat back four and a central defensive trio.

Gabriel has been the undoubted first choice, alongside a host of partners, while most recently Rob Holding and Pablo Mari have struck up a solid partnership in Arsenal's three-match unbeaten run.

But while Saliba – handed the club's No.4 shirt upon arrival – has been left on the outside looking in throughout, Gunners chiefs still believe that he can have a successful long-term future in North London – hence the lack of any potential purchase option.

Arteta stated in early December that Saliba had made "massive improvements" in recent months.

He also admitted: "It’s been a really tricky situation for him.

“As I mentioned before, we designed a pathway for him and there were a lot of things that happened to him in his personal life and professionally as well."

But throughout he remained staunch in his viewpoint that Saliba wasn't ready for the club's first-team.

Now Saliba heads to the Cote d'Azur looking for regular game time at a Nice side currently 12th in Ligue 1.

He is set to be the second Arsenal defender to depart already this month, with Sead Kolasinac returning to Germany on loan at crisis club Schalke.

Another experienced defender, Sokratis, is also set to exit amid European interest.

Has William Saliba had a fair crack of the whip at Arsenal? Have your say in the comments.

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