William Saliba exclusive: I was a ‘nobody’ at Arsenal, it brought me back to reality

William Saliba admits he was humbled after six months of no match at Arsenal amid a string of loan spells.

The centre-back moved to the Emirates for £27m in 2019, but has yet to make a single appearance for Arsenal after loan spells at Saint-Etienne, Nice and Marseille.

Now in Marseille, Saliba is starting to make references to the player who excited Arsenal fans when it was first announced.

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Speaking exclusively to Eurosport France, the 20-year-old said a move to the Premier League brought him back to reality and taught him to earn his place at the top level.

“There are hard times,” Saliba admitted. “I haven’t played any game for six months.

“You have to fight for a career. We have to take that as a lesson going forward. It gave me a little slap to say, ‘You’re no one!'” “You can buy for 30 million euros, you get to a club and we put you aside.

“I took that experience by being positive. I feed on it. I know what it means to not play for six months. Today, I want to play every game. It puts ideas back in place. Before I arrived at Arsenal, I said to myself: ‘Who am I going to play with?” Hence you are not in the Premier League group.

It gives you a good slap, it feels good. It brings you back to reality.

Saliba is a key component of Marseille’s stubborn defense line, which is ranked second in the French League, with 14 goals conceded in the league this season.

And while he insists he’s not playing for honors in North London, he’s certainly keen to show he can.

“It’s not a direct message,” he adds. “But since I haven’t played for six months, because I had a hard time, I wanted to show that I have the ability to play for this club. I do it myself first. It’s not revenge.”

Saliba’s loan move does not include a purchase option, but he treats his stay in Marseille as if it were on a permanent contract.

Arsenal unveil new player William Saliba at London Colney on July 23, 2019 in St Albans, England.

Image credit: Getty Images

As he follows Arsenal’s results, he says he is dedicated to his adopted French team and is not thinking about the future.

He says “I’m on loan”. “But I pretend I’ve been there for many years, and I’m not thinking of going back to Arsenal [right now]. I give myself to Marseille. I don’t think about what will happen next.”

The defender’s relationship with Mikel Arteta has never been clear and the £50m signing of Ben White from Brighton in the summer appears to have pushed Saliba even further.

But it appears he is still in the Spaniard’s plans. At the end of October, Arteta stated: “Saliba? There is a place for him with us.”

Saliba remains conservative, keeps his head low, and works hard to earn his place wherever he plays. Not taking anything for granted:

Football is like that. In the big teams, there is competition all around. If you fear competition, don’t play football.

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