ARSENAL manager Mikel Arteta has revealed he is finally ready to welcome William Saliba into his Arsenal squad.
But the on-loan defender does not want to come back.
Saliba, 21, was billed as one of the hottest defensive properties around when the Gunners splashed £27million on him in 2019.
But he is yet to even make an appearance for the Arsenal first-team, having been send out on a string of temporary switches.
Arteta is now finally keen to integrate his young star into his Arsenal defence.
He told RMC: “William Saliba has to come back. He has the experience to be competitive with us. We sent him to Marseille for his growth.”
“William wanted to be regular starter as you know but now we want him back at Arsenal.”
Saliba’s impressive season with Marseille led to him being named as the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year.
The move to the south of France was the third loan deal Arsenal have arranged for Saliba since signing him, following stints at Saint-Etienne and Nice.
Marseille have been extremely impressed with him this season and manager Jorge Sampaoli has made the clubs feeling towards a possible transfer very clear.
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He told BFM Marseille Provence: “There is a budget to stick to and a desire on the part of the owner [Frank McCourt] to make sure the club is balanced. There are priorities with regard to FFP.
“William’s desire is not in doubt. He’s obviously told Pablo [Longoria] and he said it to me again on the pitch on Saturday. He is sincere, but there is a contractual reality.
“He belongs to Arsenal. But if his desire is to stay with us, we will see. Everyone wants him to be here next season.”
Saliba is seen as an option to bolster the Arsenal back line behind Gabriel and Ben White.
The Frenchman’s numbers seem to suit the possession based style Arsenal want to implement, with Saliba registering a 93.7 per cent pass completion with the highest distance of ball progression via passing.
With three years of solid Ligue 1 experience behind him, Saliba has finally done enough to earn the trust of Arteta to bring him into the squad for next season.
Retaining Saliba rather than buying a new defender would also free up transfer budget for elsewhere, with striker and central midfield two places Arsenal are desperate to reinforce.
But should Saliba want to leave in favour of Champions League football, Arsenal could be hard pressed to keep their man after they missed out by losing two of their last three Premier League games.
Ben White and Gabriel formed a formidable partnership at the back for Arsenal this season, and as such Saliba may find game time in the league difficult to begin.