William Saliba admits he was ‘hurt’ by Mikel Arteta’s treatment at Arsenal

AFC Wimbledon v Arsenal U21 - EFL Trophy
William Saliba is yet to make his debut for Arsenal (Picture: Getty)

Arsenal defender William Saliba has admitted he was ‘hurt’ by Mikel Arteta’s decision to overlook him this season.

The French centre-back agreed to join the Gunners in 2019 but he arrived at the Emirates last summer after fulfilling a season-long loan deal with St-Etienne.

Saliba arrived with a promising reputation and Arsenal fans were hopeful that the £27million defender could cure the club’s problems at the back.

However, Saliba was signed under previous manager Unai Emery and it’s clear that Arteta didn’t share the Spaniard’s view that the defender was ready for the first team.

Gillingham v Arsenal U21 - Papa John's Trophy
Saliba admits he’s experienced a difficult start at Arsenal (Picture: Getty)

Saliba didn’t play a single minute for the first team before he joined Nice on loan earlier this month and his appearances for the U23s’ were far from ideal as the defender sustained injury and was sent off.

Arteta opted to sign Gabriel from Lille last summer, meaning even more competition for Saliba to force his way into the first team.

And the 19-year-old admits he’s been left ‘hurt’ by Arteta’s decision to shun him this term.

‘I really, really, really didn’t think that I would be transferred for €30m, to think that I would arrive, where people were expecting a lot from me, the fans excited about me and you find yourself in the reserves,’ said Saliba.

‘To play zero, zero nothing in the Europa League or the league. I was in the squad once in the league cup. It hurt me, it affected me.

‘I don’t think I left too early. When you feel ready you have to go. I don’t think I left too early. These things happen. I believe in myself.’

Saliba has made four appearances for Nice since moving back from France but his loan expires at the end of the campaign.

The defender admits he didn’t expect to be back in his home country so soon after his move to London but he’s not ruling out a permanent return.

‘I am just focused on doing the absolute most and best possible for the next 6 months. After that, we will see,’ said Saliba.

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