William Saliba’s progression this season and his most recent Ligue 1 nomination shows that Thierry Henry was wrong about Arsenal’s treatment of the Frenchman.
Saliba has been thriving for Marseille this season and has grown in maturity which has given him more of a chance to succeed in north London.
The young defender has been nominated as one of four players to win the Ligue 1 young player of the year award for the 2021/2022 season.
This is a reflection of Saliba’s excellent performances during his loan spell at Marseille in this campaign.
If the 21-year-old decided to stay at Arsenal this season he may not have been given the same opportunities because of the competitiveness of Mikel Arteta’s squad. But, his loan move has proven to be valuable and it was a good decision by the club not to keep Saliba for this campaign.
Speaking on Saliba’s situation at Arsenal, Henry said: “They didn’t even let him make a mistake. He didn’t even have the chance to compete for his place. What he is doing here is extraordinary. He was rewarded with a selection for the France team,” Henry said in an interview with Amazon Prime.
“Now he belongs to Arsenal, I don’t know where he will end up. We have seen that it was a little difficult for him to express himself on the subject.”
Saliba was sent out on loan at the start of the season after he was not going to be guaranteed first-team minutes.
It was a decision that Arteta had full faith in, as he said: “I think we are really happy with the decision that we made because again the exposure and minutes and responsibility on his growth at his age is something that we could not guarantee him this season,” he said back in March after Saliba’s call up.
“And it makes a lot of sense what is happening with him. We are glad to see the way he is improving.”
Saliba has proven that Henry’s comments are wrong throughout the season as his impressive displays in France has helped him mature as a player, and the same growth could not have been guaranteed at Arsenal.
He also had the opportunity to play in European club fixtures this year which would not have been possible in north London.
The Frenchman has shown the maturity required at Marseille to be a regular Premier League centre-back, playing more minutes than any other player aged 20 and under in Europe’s top five leagues.
The French defender has proven to be crucial for Jorge Sampaoli’s side and has started every Ligue 1 match since joining the club.
A flurry of marvelous displays earned him a spot in the starting XI of France’s best under-23 players, put together by French newspaper L’Equipe.
This has also seen him be awarded the club’s Player of the Month three times this season.
The Frenchman has shown his quality during his loan moves, and he could be a crucial part of Arteta’s rebuilding process, especially if he challenges Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White for a starting position.
With Rob Holding’s future as a Gunner also uncertain, it will be important for Saliba to re-join for the squad depth and not just his ability.
His call-up to the French national team may not have been possible if he was still at Arsenal, as the chances given to him at Marseille have proved valuable.
This will be a blessing for Arteta as he will have a much improved Saliba at his disposal ahead of the next campaign, which proves that Henry’s comments are wrong.