EPL

Saliba reveals 'hurt' at lack of Arsenal opportunities

By Sports Desk January 31, 2021

Arsenal defender William Saliba admits he was "hurt" after not being given first-team opportunities following his move from Saint-Etienne. 

The 19-year-old arrived at the Emirates Stadium in July 2019 for a reported £27million (€29.7m) fee and was loaned back to Saint-Etienne for the 2019-20 campaign.

He returned to the Gunners ahead of this season and was expected to become part of manager Mikel Arteta's plans after a possible second loan back to Saint-Etienne failed to materialise in October.

However, the France youth international did not make a senior appearance for the Premier League club and was loaned to Nice earlier this month.

Saliba made his fifth appearance for the Ligue 1 outfit in Sunday's 1-0 defeat to his former club Saint-Etienne. 

Despite the result he had an impact at the heart of the backline, making more successful passes (58) and clearances (five) than any other Nice player.

He also gained possession seven times, the joint second-highest of any player on the pitch.

Saliba has opened up on his frustration with life at Arsenal and feels strongly he should have been given a chance to impress in the first team.

"I really, really, really didn't think that I would be transferred for almost €30m," he told TF1.

"To think that I would arrive, where people were expecting a lot from me, the fans were excited about me and you find yourself in the reserves, playing zero – nothing in the Europa League or the Premier League.

"I was in the squad once in the EFL Cup. It hurt me, it affected me. I don't think I left too early. When you feel ready you have to go. These things happen. I believe in myself."

While Saliba is enjoying playing first-team football again at Nice, he insists he is not thinking about where he will be next season.

"I have learned now that it is better not to look too far in the future," he added. "I am focused on just these six months to try to give absolutely everything and for the rest we will see.

"For me, the best decision was to join Nice because there is a good project, a good team, a good level of ambition and they like to play in a certain way.

"It feels good to play and to have consistent game time. I am young, I am 19, and it is by playing matches like this that you improve.

"You see what mistakes you make and you correct them for the next match."

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