Ex-Arsenal defender William Gallas believes Mikel Arteta might need to change his preferred system to prevent William Saliba from leaving on a permanent transfer this summer. Saliba has shone brightly at Marseille and might opt for the exit door if he has little hope of regular minutes next season.
Arsenal splashed £29million to sign Saliba from Saint-Etienne in 2019, but he is yet to make a single first-team appearance. The 21-year-old returned to the French club on loan for the 2019-20 campaign before being sent out to Nice in 2020-21.
However, he has looked at his best at Marseille this season, earning his maiden France international cap in the process. Arteta could have a dilemma this summer, though, after signing Gabriel Magalhaes for £23m in 2020 and splashing £50m on Ben White last summer.
Gallas has admitted his confusion over why his fellow countryman hasn’t yet received a chance in the Arsenal first team. And he believes Saliba could only fit in Arteta’s plans if he switches to a three-at-the-back system due to his settled current centre-back partnership.
He told Genting Casino: “I don’t know why Saliba hasn’t had an opportunity to show what he can do at Arsenal. With Marseille, he is doing well, so that’s why the France manager called him up and gave him the opportunity to play with the national team.
“So I don’t know whether Saliba will stay in Marseille or come back to Arsenal next season. If he comes back to Arsenal, he has to be ready, and he has to know it will be difficult for him to be in the starting XI because right now, they have Ben White. But if Arteta changes his system and plays with three at the back, Saliba could fit in that position.”
Gallas continued by suggesting Arsenal’s return to European competition would increase Saliba’s chances of minutes. However, he has urged the young defender to ‘fight’ to prove he can be a success for the Gunners.
“Also, if Arsenal are in the Champions League, he will have more competitions to play in during the season, so Saliba could have more opportunities to play games,” Gallas added. “Saliba has to be ready and must know he has to fight to show he’s a good player and that he deserves to play for Arsenal.”