Brighton v Arsenal: Match in pictures
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Arsenal have supposedly given William Saliba a vote of confidence ahead of next season while he continues to impress on loan at Marseille. The decision taken in the summer to send him on a third loan spell has come under heavy scrutiny in recent weeks, but the Gunners are now planning ahead for his return, and it would appear that he has a bright future at the club.
Saliba has made 10 appearances in all competitions so far this campaign, drawing plaudits for his gutsy performances in the centre of defence.
Over the past two seasons he has progressed from St-Etienne to Nice before linking up with Jorge Sampaoli in Marseille, being given a more prominent role on each occasion.
So far this campaign, Saliba has been a nailed-on starter at the Stade Velodrome which prompted many to question why transfer chief Edu sanctioned his departure at all.
The scrutiny only increased when Arsenal shipped nine goals during their first three Premier League games, leaving them rooted to the bottom of the table.
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While Arteta has steadied the ship to grind out three clean sheets in their past four games, fans and figures associated with the Gunners are keeping a close eye on Saliba’s progress.
According to Fabrizio Romano, Edu held talks with the youngster ‘weeks ago’ to declare his 100 per cent trust ahead of next season, when he is expected to be welcomed back.
The north London side are believed to be happy with Saliba’s progress and his long-awaited integration into the first team is on the horizon.
Still at just 20 years old, there is plenty to like about the 6ft 4in centre-back who has already accumulated an impressive amount of top-flight experience.
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It is easy to forget just how young he is, mostly because it was over two years ago when Arsenal forked out £27million for his services, but for a defender he would still be among the youngest in the Premier League.
High-flying youngsters like Trevoh Chalobah and Ibrahima Konate are both two years older than the Frenchman, while even Leicester’s Wesley Fofana was born three months earlier.
With plenty of time left to mature, Saliba could have an exciting future at the Emirates if he is able to find opportunities either alongside or instead of Ben White and Gabriel.
Meanwhile, his return could come as bad news for the likes of Rob Holding, Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers who may subsequently find minutes hard to come by.
After being told to be patient for a third successive season, Saliba now finds himself in the perfect position to kick on to the next level.
With his Gunners future virtually assured, he can focus on improving under an esteemed manager like Sampaoli to put himself in the best possible position to hit the ground running under Arteta.
Although his introduction to English football will have been a long time coming, his series of apprenticeships out in France could prove crucial in the long term with so much experience already under his belt.
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