According to French media outlet L’Equipe, Arsenal will face competition from north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur this summer for the signature of William Saliba.
The report claims that the coveted teenager prefers a move to Arsenal, and any deal would see him immediately return to Saint-Etienne on loan for another season.
To some onlookers that may seem like an odd clause to include in any potential deal given the Gunners’ defensive problems and the fact Saliba’s estimated value falls in the region between €25 and €30m.
However, there are two major reasons why a season long loan deal could be beneficial…
Watch Arsenal Live Streams With StreamFootball.tv Below
Although Saliba’s imminent arrival is likely to generate excitement at Arsenal, it’s easy to overlook the teenager’s glaring inexperience. The 18-year-old only played 16 Ligue 1 games last campaign, and after his glowing introduction to first-team football, you would expect Saint-Etienne to utilise Saliba on a regular basis if he does indeed return to the French club.
The step up from the French top flight to Premier League football has proven to be a bridge too far for a handful of players in the past – take Newcastle United flop Florian Thauvin, for example – and without adequate experience there’s no question Saliba could struggle to make a smooth transition.
With a full season at the heart of Saint-Etienne’s defence, Saliba would return to Arsenal with a more complete set of technical, physical and mental attributes, and that in turn should put him in a strong position to challenge for a starting berth.
With Saliba away on loan at Saint-Etienne, two returning players, namely Callum Chambers and Krystian Bielik, would help to bolster the strength in depth in Arsenal’s defensive unit.
The duo both enjoyed extremely successful loan spells away from the Emirates last season, with Chambers winning Fulham’s Player of the Season award and Bielik claiming the Man of the Match award in Charlton’s play-off final win to see the Addicks return to the Championship.
Both players have made strong cases to be handed first-team opportunities next season and their collective presence should ensure that Emery has enough depth to justify sending Saliba back to France.