Arsenal: Saliba tackles Aubameyang during training
Arsenal defender William Saliba completed a loan move away from the club on Monday – which has pleased his former Saint-Etienne team-mate Wesley Fofana. Saliba has joined Ligue 1 club Nice on loan for the remainder of this season. The 19-year-old failed to make a first-team appearance under Mikel Arteta this term.
Saliba first joined Arsenal in the summer of 2019 for a fee of around £27million.
He immediately rejoined Saint-Etienne on loan but injury problems, followed by the French season being cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, restricted him to just 12 appearances.
The teenager has had to settle for under-23 action for the Gunners, failing to make a first-team squad.
And his former centre-back partner Fofana, who now plays for Leicester, is delighted Saliba is set to play first-team football soon.
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Fofana posted on his Instagram story on Monday “He is finally free” in response to Nice’s post about the signing.
Saliba’s situation at Arsenal has bemused a lot of the club’s supporters.
The Frenchman was expected to be a key part of Arteta’s defence in the coming seasons.
Upon Saliba’s departure, Gunners technical director Edu insisted he expects big things from the defender but says a loan was the best thing at this time.
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Edu told the Arsenal website: “William Saliba is a player with a huge amount of talent and potential.
“We’re confident he will have a great career with us but we must remember that he is still only 19 years old and has a lot of time ahead of him.
“William experienced a very challenging time last year, with his playing time limited by injury and the early ending of the Ligue 1 season due to the pandemic.
“So together with William, we have decided that spending the rest of the season on loan with Nice is the best way for him to develop.
“We will be keeping in close contact with William during his time with Nice and look forward to seeing him make good progress until the end of the season.”
Speaking in early December, Arteta said Saliba had improved in the few months he had been at the club.
“Whenever we have the spaces and we believe that he’s ready to play with us,” Arteta said.
“To be fair, he’s made massive improvements in the last few months and 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.”
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