Bacary Sagna supports Arsenal’s handling of £27m defender William Saliba

The defender is spending the rest of the season on loan at Nice
The defender is spending the rest of the season on loan at Nice (Picture: Getty Images)

Bacary Sagna says he is ‘not surprised’ by Arsenal’s handling of William Saliba and thinks sending him out on loan to Nice was a ‘clever’ move by the club.

The Gunners signed the 20-year-old from Saint-Etienne in the summer of 2019 and as part of the £27million deal, loaned him back to the Ligue 1 club for the 2019/20 campaign.

Saliba arrived at the Emirates ahead of the current Premier League season but failed to make a single first-team appearance under Mikel Arteta before being sent back out on loan to Nice in the January transfer window.

Saliba didn't feature under Arteta
Saliba didn’t feature under Arteta (Picture: Getty Images)

The centre-back has been critical of Arteta while in France, suggesting the Spanish boss judged him too quickly.

However, ex-Gunners right-back Sagna believes his former club have managed Saliba in the correct manner and still has faith that he can adjust to playing for Arteta’s side upon his return.

When asked if he has been surprised by how Arsenal have handled the defender’s situation, Sagna told Goal: ‘I’m not surprised because he has joined the best league in the world.

‘Being good in France is totally different to proving himself in the Premier League.

‘I still have trust in him, I think he is a good player and he can adapt to Arsenal because I’ve seen him play many times.

‘He is doing well at Nice and has probably been their best player. At that age you need to be playing. He has big potential and in France people know it.

‘Sending him away is not a bad thing, it’s not a punishment. To me it’s clever to send him [on loan] rather than him being on the bench or not even being in the squad.’

Saliba has been a regular feature for Nice and won the club’s Player of the Month award for January, but Sagna feels he must improve in terms of his aggressiveness and leadership qualities on the pitch.

‘I’m watching games and maybe he needs to be a bit more aggressive,’ the former France international added.

‘Be a leader, especially in his position. I don’t know if he speaks English. This could be a problem when you come to a new country, but you need to adapt fast, you don’t have time.

‘Time is a luxury you don’t have when you come to a club like Arsenal because you have to play straight away.

‘To adapt it takes months and Mikel probably saw a problem and thought ‘you need to be more aggressive, you need go out somewhere and play’.

‘Then when he comes back, he will have the mentality needed for the Premier League.’

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