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Saliba warned he may have to accept bench role at Arsenal as Gallas explains why Saka should shun transfer talk

10:05 AM WAT 22/04/2022
William Saliba Marseille 2021-22
The former Gunners defender believes a fellow Frenchman has what it takes to make the grade with the Gunners but he'll likely have to be patient

William Saliba is good enough to make the grade at Arsenal after proving as much on loan at Marseille, says William Gallas, but the French defender has been warned that he will likely have to accept a role on the bench at first.

A man snapped up from Saint-Etienne in 2019 is yet to make a competitive appearance for his parent club, with a first-team pathway remaining blocked off at Emirates Stadium for a highly-rated centre-half that is now 21 years of age.

Another window of opportunity could present itself in 2022, following another productive spell back home, but Gallas believes his fellow countryman is going to have to be patient in order to become a future star in north London.

Should Arsenal give Saliba a chance in 2022-23?

Quizzed by GOAL on whether Saliba should be absorbed back into the Arsenal fold this summer, former Gunners defender Gallas – speaking in association with Genting Casino – said: “I think they didn’t give him the opportunities at Arsenal, and I don’t know why. That’s why he moved on loan to Marseille.

“He is doing a good job, that is why they called him into the national team, because he has had a great season with Marseille. If he comes back to Arsenal, he has to be ready to go back and maybe be on the bench at the beginning because at the moment you have got Ben White and Gabriel. He has to be ready to accept being on the bench. Mikel Arteta, if he plays with a different system, with three at the back, then he could play with Saliba.

“He has to understand this and be ready, otherwise don’t come back to Arsenal because it will be difficult. Young players now have more opportunities to play, and when you start to play then you want to play every game. The problem at some clubs is that it can be difficult.

“Defenders are completely different to strikers, you need to have experience when you play at the back. Saliba is only 21 years old. He has played 30 or more games at Marseille, so if he goes back to Arsenal then he would like to play again. Maybe he will be on the bench, and if that happens then he will be upset.”

Is Saliba good enough for Arsenal?

Having shown what he is capable of across spells with Saint-Etienne, Nice and Marseille, Gallas believes Saliba can thrive at Arsenal, if the Gunners can find an experienced head to operate alongside him.

The ex-France international added when asked if a fellow countryman is good enough to become a regular for Premier League heavyweights: “Yes, definitely. He is very strong, a very powerful guy. His technique is good and he can read the game. He can play in the Premier League.

“Players like him need to play with experienced players on their side because they can’t take all that pressure on their shoulders. When you are a centre-back, when you are young, you need to play with one player who has experience because all of the pressure will be on the experienced player and you will only have to worry about what you do, you don’t have to be the leader of the defence. Sometimes they are asked to do too much.

“If you look at Arsenal, Ben White and Gabriel, who is the leader from those two? I don’t see one. They are the same age and they are just thinking about what they have to do. They are not leading the defence.”

Will Saka leave Arsenal in 2022?

While questions are being asked of Saliba’s future at Arsenal, the Gunners are also having to fend off suggestions that Bukayo Saka may not form part of their long-term plans.

A 20-year-old home-grown star is now a proven performer at domestic and international level, with 14 caps earned for England, but a lack of Champions League football on his CV has sparked talk of interest being shown by the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City.

Pressed on whether a top-four finish is a must in order for Saka to remain in his current surroundings, Gallas said: They have to finish in the top four to keep him, that is for sure. But, if I was Saka, I wouldn’t leave next season. If Arsenal doesn’t finish in the top four, I would still stay for maybe one more season.

“The problem is, in November you have got the World Cup. That means if you leave Arsenal and you go to join any club, maybe you won’t be in the starting XI. If you are not in the starting XI, it can be a problem to start for the national team. We know how it can be difficult sometimes for players to adapt to a new club, especially if they don’t play. It will be difficult for him if he leaves Arsenal, so that’s why it is better for him to stay for maybe one more season.”

Could Saka play for any club in the world?

Arsenal are looking to do all they can to keep Saka in Arteta’s squad, with a new contract being mooted for a man that has bounced back in style from missing a penalty in the final of Euro 2020, and Gallas admits that the sky is the limit for one of the hottest prospects in world football.

Asked if he could see a versatile performer turning out for one of the biggest sides on the planet, a man that spent four years with the Gunners in his playing days said: “When he plays, I think defenders have a big problem to defend against him. He is very quick, he is very smart, his technique is very good, he goes outside and inside, and he can defend as well.

“I don’t think there is a limit for him, I think he could go anywhere. He needs to have a little bit more experience. When you want to leave for another club, you have to be strong enough to go to the biggest club. At the biggest clubs, you have players that have the same quality as you. You have to understand that sometimes you can be on the bench, and if you are on the bench then you have to be ready just in case you have to come on.

“Sometimes players, they are a little bit upset because they are on the bench and their confidence goes down. When you are young, it is difficult to deal with all those things.

“Look for example at [Jack] Grealish - at Aston Villa he was the main player, he was the captain, he played well, and then he moved to City. Look at him now, he doesn’t play. That is why the young players have to be careful about the decisions they are going to take.”

In the present, Saka has registered 11 goals and five assists across 37 appearances in the 2021-22 campaign, with those efforts helping to keep Arsenal in the hunt for Champions League qualification that would bring a five-year absence from European football’s top table to a close.

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